Everything I Never Told You
By: Celeste Ng
Publisher: Penguin Press HC
Publication Date: 06/26/2014
My Rating: 4.5 Stars
A haunting debut novel about a mixed-race family living in 1970s Ohio and the tragedy that will either be their undoing or their salvation.
Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet . . . So begins the story of this exquisite debut novel, about 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.
A profoundly moving story of family, history, and the meaning of home, Everything I Never Told You is both a gripping page-turner and a sensitive family portrait, exploring the divisions between cultures and the rifts within a family, and uncovering the ways in which mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, and husbands and wives struggle, all their lives, to understand one another.
Everything I Never Told You, a complex and emotionally charged debut novel by Celeste Ng—a heartbreaking account and emotional journey of one fragile family of misfits, struggling for a sense of normality in their lives.
Set in Ohio, in the 1970s, readers learn about a couple, Marilyn and James, who meet in 1957. Flashing back and forth, Marilyn is at Radcliffe and James, son of Chinese immigrants, a graduate student teaching one of her classes.
The two fall in love and marry, against the mother’s objections due to the interracial status. James is blown away by his wife, and the two together have individual hopes and dreams for a successful life. They both keep their family history to themselves, as well as their frustrations. They are almost living an unrealistic life.
However, soon their plans are ruined, when Marilyn finds herself pregnant and James does not get the prestigious position, he was hoping for. She feels she is giving up her dream; however, in hopes to regain later. James never feels as though he lives up. Not a good match, as this drive for excellence is carried over to their children, often demanding perfection.
Lydia is the middle child and a favorite of the mother. Lydia tries desperately to please her mother, but does not feel she can ever live up to the expectations. Marilyn always has a fear of being like her own mother, and wants more, she is grasping for her own dream of being a doctor. She wants to further her education.
When Lydia goes missing and is discovered dead in a nearby lake, they find they never knew their own daughter. They did not know the real person. She was afraid of water, refuses to learn to swim and was on a rowboat—making no sense to the family left behind.
The family does not have friends, the marriage unravels, and the brother, Nath – only dreams of going to Harvard and escaping this family, always consumed by vengeance, and youngest Hannah silently watches all as a bystander. Everyone wonders what caused the accident and if Lydia was unhappy—what did they miss? Everyone is so caught up in themselves, they miss everything happening around them.
A totally dysfunctional family and one of dark secrets, grief, and loss. A powerful tale of race, prejudice, identity—how they live with the tragedy left behind. Hidden truths are unraveled, keeping you absorbed and hooked until the end.
Cassandra Campbell was an excellent choice for narrator for the audiobook, for a slow and steady, precise performance, needed for the character's reflection, especially Marilyn's character-a good match.
An ideal novel for book clubs, exploring each character to analyze their different personalities. A deeply moving and beautifully written debut novel of marriage, family, and human emotions from a master storyteller!
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