Mrs. Richardson’s vision of a suburban utopia might strike some as a quaint fantasy, but this is the ’90s, after all. Post-9/11, post-Obama, in the age of Trump and Black Lives Matter, we may know better, but Ng reminds us that 20 years ago, in the age of AltaVista, pagers and Sir Mix-a-Lot, some who voted for another Clinton claimed to have within their sight a post-racial America. “I mean, we’re lucky,” says the blond Lexie, whose boyfriend is black. “No one sees race here.”
The magic of this novel lies in its power to implicate all of its characters — and likely many of its readers — in that innocent delusion. Who set the little fires everywhere? We keep reading to find out, even as we suspect that it could be us with ash on our hands.