“All her life, she had learned that passion, like fire, was a dangerous thing. It so easily went out of control. It scaled walls and jumped over trenches. Sparks leapt like fleas and spread as rapidly, a breeze could carry embers for miles. Better to control that spark and pass it carefully from one generation to the next, like an Olympic torch. Or, perhaps, to tend it carefully like an eternal flame: a reminder of light and goodness that would never–could never–set anything ablaze. Carefully controlled. Domesticated. Happy in captivity. The key, she thought, was to avoid conflagration.”
When a book starts literally with a house on fire, you do sit up and pay attention! In the opening scene, three teenagers are sitting on a car, watching their family home burn down, while the youngest in the family has disappeared. She’s not still in the house, she’s suspected of lighting the fires. At that point I was hooked, and the novel kept me well entertained throughout a lot of airmiles on my way back from New Zealand–definitely a nice story to get completely lost in.
Celeste Ng seems to enjoy writing about dysfunctional families and she is definitely getting better at it. This one was well crafted, and a cut above the other one of hers that I read called Everything I Never Told You. I think her character development has improved and she has created a bit more suspense. I’ve noticed this title popping up on quite a few lists of favourite books of 2017 and I think it is not undeserved. This is a great one for book clubs with lots to discuss!