Sunday, December 20, 2015
Everything I Never Told You By Celeste Ng
Published June 2014 by Penguin Publishing Group
Source: purchased my copy of my book club read
Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet . . . So begins the story of a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio. Lydia is the favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee; their middle daughter, a girl who inherited her mother’s bright blue eyes and her father’s jet-black hair. Her parents are determined that Lydia will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue—in Marilyn’s case that her daughter become a doctor rather than a homemaker, in James’s case that Lydia be popular at school, a girl with a busy social life and the center of every party.
When Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together tumbles into chaos, forcing them to confront the long-kept secrets that have been slowly pulling them apart. James, consumed by guilt, sets out on a reckless path that may destroy his marriage. Marilyn, devastated and vengeful, is determined to find a responsible party, no matter what the cost. Lydia’s older brother, Nathan, is certain that the neighborhood bad boy Jack is somehow involved. But it’s the youngest of the family—Hannah—who observes far more than anyone realizes and who may be the only one who knows the truth about what happened.
There is a reason Everything I Never Told You ended up on so many "best of" lists in 2014 - it's simply remarkable. It is the heartbreaking story of a family slowing falling apart.
When James and Marilyn met, they both thought they were getting the very thing they wanted. It was only the beginning of the communication problems that would plague their family and, eventually, tear them apart. A mother who didn't have the strength to push through to make her own dreams come true, a daughter who would do anything to keep her mother at home, a brother who became his sister's ally to his own detriment, two parents who demonstrably favor one child over their others.
Moving back and forth in time, from the point of view of one family member to another, Ng deftly explores race, assimilation, gender, parental expectations, and sibling relationships all under the glare of one question: how much we really know about those we think we know best?
I loved this book. Even as it got harder and harder to read it became harder and harder to put down. I was glad to have read it with my book club because I really needed to talk about it when I was done reading it. I highly recommend it for book clubs. And for you.