Everything I Never Told You

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A lesson about the secrets we keep and the bonds we break.

No, this post isn’t going to be some huge moment where I admit, in words garbled by sobs, that I have been lying to you all this whole time. I just read a book, Everything I Never Told You, by Celeste Ng.

Here is the Amazon summary:

“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.

It is not often that I dislike a book I pick out, but this one unfortunately fell short on the list for me.

What I Liked:

  • I am a sucker for non-linear layouts and this book delivers. As chapters, and even paragraphs, can move from one time frame to another, it does a good job of keeping the reader guessing and engaged. As the book’s hook comes in the first sentence, “Lydia is dead,” you instantly want to know more. I appreciate Ng’s process of teasing the reader with mismatched bits of information, but never giving away the whole picture.
  • I also enjoy that Ng’s first novel is about a biracial family. I have talked about my experiences with ethnic shaming before, but this novel, as it is set in 1970s Ohio, puts things into a different light.
  • Ng’s writing is very beautiful. Descriptive and metaphorical, the imagery in her words can transport you straight to the Lee’s kitchen table.
  • Despite the subject matter, it is an easy read and I finished it cover to cover in just a few days.

What I Disliked:

  • The Lee family is really dysfunctional. Although I understand that this might be an accurate portrayal of many families today, I found it depressing to read. When I choose a novel, I typically opt for something uplifting, heartwarming, or even magical, a place where I can escape our sometimes harsh reality for a few hours.

Maybe with all of the focus I have put on happiness recently, I just wasn’t in the right headspace to fully enjoy this book. As my mother, grandmother, and aunt all read and recommended this book to me, I would take my review lightly and try it for yourself. Ng is an amazing writer and her debut novel has been majorly successful, even without my support. I look forward to reading her future work.

-TM

Did you read Everything I Never Told You? If so, let us know what you thought of it below.

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