Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
“Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.” So begins this exquisite novel about a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio. Lydia is the favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee, and her parents are determined that she will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue. But when Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together is destroyed, tumbling them into chaos. A profoundly moving story of family, secrets, and longing, Everything I Never Told You is both a gripping page-turner and a sensitive family portrait, uncovering the ways in which mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, and husbands and wives struggle, all their lives, to understand one another.
This book was not at all what I was expecting. I knew it would be sad. I assumed it would be about a family mourning the death of a child. And there was that, but even more prevalent in this story was the notion of keeping secrets, of feeling insecure, or everyone in this family being sad or lonely in some huge way.
The story begins with Lydia, age 16, disappearing one night. Her family is shocked that she would go out at night. And when she is found dead at the bottom of the lake, they all fall apart. The story jumps around a lot, and for that I should have hated it. There is more backstory than actual present day plot, at least until the second half of the book. But the characters and the writing were strangely compelling, even though the whole book was rather tragic.
I found the characters very relatable, especially the parents. I’m sure that’s a huge part of why this book is so popular. The mixed race aspect of the story was very interesting. I think it could have been set in modern day America and still been true unfortunately.
I enjoyed the mystery of what happened to Lydia, and I’m glad Ng reveals the full story. I won’t say any more as I don’t want to give it away.
If you’re looking for a book about family dynamics, the good and the bad. This books is definitely worth checking out. It made me worry less about my son dying, which is what I was expecting, and more about the devastation that can be caused by not speaking the truth to loved ones, especially our children.
My Rating: 4 Stars
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