cover image from goodreads.com”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.
(Story synopsis from cover of Penguin edition of novel.)
Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng is the June Pi Phi Pages virtual book club read. I had been waiting to read this book ever since it arrived in the mail early in May. (Thank you Amazon!) I always try to wait until the actual month for each one of the book club books, otherwise I would probably read the entire year’s worth of books early on in the year. 🙂
If it wasn’t for the book club, to be honest, I’m not sure that I would have picked up Celeste Ng‘s Everything I Never Told You. However, I am so glad that I did read this novel. Everything I Never Told You is a novel that is completely different from every other book that I’ve ever read…and I mean that in the very best way possible.
Ng creates a fascinating story that revolves around the Lee family and the tragedy that they are faced with when they realize that their daughter/sister Lydia is dead. (Don’t worry, I’m not giving away any spoilers here.) The fascinating part about this novel is not so much the mystery that revolves around Lydia’s death, but instead the entire family as they examine the relationships that they have with one another. It’s amazing to realize how so many family members living together and experiencing life together can have such different perspectives on how they have been living their lives.
While beginning to read Everything I Never Told You, it is initially believed that the title stems from the secrets that teenager Lydia was keeping from her family, but in this aspect too we see how there is so much more to this idea. Not only does the reader explore what isn’t being said by Lydia, especially to her mother – but we also see how each one of the family members begins to realize how much they don’t say to each other. As we see the family members reflecting on their own lives, especially Marilyn and James, we see how much the family avoids talking about the really important things in life.
The readers are the only ones who know the whole truth about what happened to Lydia, however this only adds to the emotion of what is felt by the entire Lee family as they learn how to become a family again and what that means to them. I think that Everything I Never Told You not only has the reader examine what it means to be a multi-racial family in the 1970s, but it also makes the reader examine what it means to be a family at all. What types of relationships are we forming? How to we interact with the people who should be the most important with our lives? Are we being honest with ourselves in how we deal with our family?
Celeste Ng manages to raise many personal questions in her telling of Everything I Never Told You as we live with the Lees during a very crucial moment in their family and as they examine how they got to this point. Everything I Never Told You is a wonderful novel that is very personal in an unexpected way.
(Everything I Never Told You was my 31st read for the year so far as I work to reach my Goodreads challenge. Check out the books I’ve read so far this year here at my challenge page. 2015 Challenge Books)