When teenaged daughter Lydia dies, the hairline fractures in the Lee family shatter into insurmountable caverns between them. How did this happen? How many secrets do they each carry, anyway?
American-born Chinese James wants popularity and "common" experiences for his family, not the unique apartness he always felt. Marilyn wants her daughter to do everything she didn't. Nathan wants to reinvent himself at college, away from his family. Lydia wants to be free of the crushing expectations of her parents. And Hannah just wants to be noticed.
All this want, and no one's any good at expressing it. But that's true of many families, isn't it?
A strong theme in the book is the burden of expectations: what parents expect for and of their children, how children believe they should act to make parents happy, what we expect of others based on our preconceived notions. Ultimately it's that weight that wrecks them all.
I loved this book! While the book takes place in the 1970s, it's still a modern story with current themes and problems. You feel for each of the characters and the boxes they're trapped in; how can they burst free to really live? It's a familiar challenge.