Celeste Ng has the rare ability to truly become who she is writing about. The way she describes the world as seen through a photographer’s eye, you would think she has spent her entire life taking photos instead of writing. She knows how to feel things, as well as how to invoke feelings in others.
Shaker Heights is a perfect town with perfect houses and perfect families. Or so it seems from the outside. As the lives of two very different families come together, we see walls break down and disguises shatter, and even the ones who seem to always play by the rules are exposed as who they really are.
She has painted her characters like an artist, one dimensional at first but then as we get to know them layer by layer, we understand their stories and how past events have shaped them as a person. We see their admirable traits as well as their dark hidden places, making it easier to empathise with them and, by the end of the story, difficult to truly despise anyone. Since Ng used a third person POV to tell the story, it has made it easier to see each character without bias.
Among the themes the story explores, the one which resonated the most with me was the fallacy that there is always a right and wrong way to handle things. There are some situations in life where no matter what you do, you will be hurting someone and no matter how much you debate, it seems impossible to choose the right option. And that’s okay, because –
“in fact, most of the time they were simply ways, none of them quite wrong or quite right, and nothing to tell you for sure what side of the line you stood on.”
Kashfia Hassan loves to write professionally and for fun.