This was the perfect ER book, sad and lonesome, the story of families and the way they tear at each other. Families are odd collections of people who temporarily live under the same roof. During that time, they can do amazing or terrible things to each other. It’s interesting to me that family members who have treated each other terribly often expect those very family members to forget all of that by the time they are adults. You see that in this book. The parents with their focus on their favorite child, Lydia, have created a situation where, after Lydia dies, they’ll have no one to come home to. Parents risk having children who step out the door into the big world and don’t come back. In Ng’s story about a half Asian family, the reader is reminded of a recent America where intermarriage was illegal in many parts of the country. It’s hard to remember this in today’s California where I live. My children grew up with a long list of bi-racial friends and Whites were the minority at their schools. In this achingly beautiful story, Asians are other, but it is not just that othering that haunts this book. It’s also the parents’ obsession with making the one daughter, the favorite, into someone of whom they approve. It’s a story that climbs in bed with you, at least it did with me as I lay in bed in the ER. The lake circles the story, Harvard and the dream of Harvard, and the Chinese language erased . But mostly, what hangs with me is the intricate language of family: The stories, the secrets, what we want from each other and what we need.