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{November 20, 2019}   {Review} Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

From Goodreads: 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.

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This is the type of novel that makes me scared of being a parent, but at the same time, shows me a lot of what not to do–pushing my own agenda onto them, playing favorites, etc., though it’s possible to do that unawares, as Marilyn and James do. This novel chronicles the lives of all the Lee’s, seamlessly switching between the before and after, and it is both poignant and heartbreaking. I feel for them all, and I want to smack them, too, but it’s always easier to judge from the outside looking in, isn’t it? Why is it so often that parents try to live vicariously through their children, and why don’t people feel empowered enough to say what they mean? Obviously, humans have many deep layers and experiences that create their waking selves. This is a rich text, one you can really dive into psychologically. Mystery novel, however, it is not, and I see a lot of people had the same idea that I had when going into it, probably from the first line of the synopsis on the back of the book. While the question of how/why Lydia died is one woven throughout, the majority of the novel focuses on the development and characterization of the Lees, and not so much trying to figure out what happened that fateful night, but what lead up to it.

Told through a series of flashbacks, readers intimately get to know each of the Lees, learning their secrets and fears, and ultimately, laying bear the struggles of life in the racially charged and discriminatory time period of the United States from the 50s to the late 70s. Lydia, her older brother Nath, and their younger sister Hannah are Chinese Americans struggling to fit into society, with a Chinese American father and a Caucasian mother. As both parents, James and Marilyn have their own deep-seated resentments against the world and each other, they subconsciously apply pressures to their children that even the strongest of wills would find overbearing. Nath looks for solace in the fact that he’ll be leaving home for Harvard in the fall, Lydia’s fear of losing her only confidant pushes her into the arms of the neighborhood “bad boy” Jack, and quiet Hannah silently watches on, wishing someone, anyone, would pay attention to her.

This novel is a study is psychology, and it’s a very poignant tale of love and betrayal, one that I found to be extremely real and riveting, although bleak and heartbreaking. Four stars.

I borrowed the audible of this novel from the library.

Did you know that you can try a FREE TRIAL of Audible for 30 days? Try it today!

Kindle | Audible | Paperback | Hardcover



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