In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned—from the layout of the winding roads, to the colors of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.
Enter Mia Warren—an enigmatic artist and single mother—who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenaged daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.
When old family friends of the Richardsons attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town—and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs.
I am the first to admit that I don't often give in to hype. Cool new app? I'll be the last to download it. Everyone's obsessed with a song? I think it's "meh." So when this book first came out and the reviews were raving, I figured it was just another book that was only popular because a few celebrities liked it and wanted to make it into a TV show. Then I came across the show on HULU one day.... I had a dozen loads of laundry to fold so I thought, "why not?" One episode in and I was hooked. So when it came time to nominate a book for my book club's August read I decided it was time to give the book a fair shake.
My immediate thoughts about the book were that it was very detailed. Some parts of that felt excessive, like when it came to the scenery, but it also allowed for vivid character development. I felt like I was inside the Richardson family. I wanted to be friends with Lexie, to be part of the growth that she was going through. I wanted to bop Elena upside the head because her flaws were so real and relevant. I wanted to hug Izzy and make sure she felt loved. That's how real these characters were to me. When their hearts ached, so did mine. When they were angry, so was I.
As this novel went on the story line really got me thinking. I couldn't just passively read this one. Especially given our current climate in the US, I had opinions about every aspect. I found myself asking "would I have done the same thing?" "Would I have stood up?" That is what made this such a great novel to me. It wasn't light and fluffy. There were so many layers of depth, so much to peel back, without it being some massive 500 page book.
If you, like me, find yourself often turned off by excessive hype. If you usually dislike the books the world seems to be amazed with. If you usually shy away from books that are turned into movies or shows. Do yourself a favor and give in here. You won't regret it.