Everything I Never Told You: Review
Ready for a heartbreakingly beautiful piece of literature to start your summer with? Look no further, because Everything I Never Told You, by Celeste Ng, is something I recommend a hundred times over, to any reader.
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.
Though Everything I Never Told You is only 300 pages, it packs one heck of a punch. It tackles many evocative themes through painting beautiful, illustrative character portraits of an average, not-so-average American family. Most of all, as a Chinese American myself, it hit close to home.
I did not smile once throughout this entire book. I cried and frowned and furrowed my eyebrows in confusion. But not once did I laugh out loud or grin with joy. It's not that kind of book. It's the kind of book that made me think.
Written in a deceptively simple way, Ng manages to capture so many emotions from this one family as the Lee's deal with the death of their sister and daughter. Every action is multi-faceted, every character multi-dimensional. I thought it was amazing how Ng put so much thought into the relationships that the family members had with each other. They felt love for each other, yes, but also need and idolatry and envy.
Her writing lays the foundation on which we get to explore race and immigrant relations in the 1970s, set in the suburbs of Ohio. Now, I wasn't raised in the suburbs. I'm not a mixed-race child. But I am Chinese-American, the daughter of immigrants, and it hurt my heart to read about the micro aggressions directed towards... well, every single member of the Lee family! James, for being the only minority in his school and ashamed of the blue-collar jobs that his parents held, and his desire for his children to be popular in ways he never was. Marilyn, for being a woman trying to pursue a career dominated by men. Their children, for not being able to truly fit in anywhere. There were little things that I related to, like when people didn't quite know what to do about the family's last name, or how James dealt with grief inwardly. It was these moments that added that wonderful, real dimension to this book.
I rate Everything I Never Told You 5/5 stars!