Thursday, May 26, 2016

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
Published by Penguin Random House ISBN 9781594205712
Trade paperback, $16, 320 pages

I'd heard so much about Celeste Ng's debut novel, Everything I Never Told You, and it ended up on so many year-end Best of lists in 2014, I'm not sure why it took me so long to read it.

The story of family in 1970's small town of Ohio, Dad James is a college professor of Asian decent who teaches history at a small school, American Mom Marilyn was his student who deferred her dreams to raise her three children.

Nathan is the oldest, and Lydia is a little younger, the golden child, the apple of her father's eye. Mom pushes Lydia to study hard and become the success she never got to be. James wants Lydia to be popular.

Lydia gets all of her parents' attention, leaving Nathan and younger sister Hannah to their own devices. James gets accepted to a good college and is preparing to leave when Lydia disappears. Her body is found in the lake, and her parents are convinced that she was murdered because she was afraid of the water and wouldn't have gotten in a boat on her own.

Nathan believes that their neighbor, his classmate Jack, killed her. Hannah saw Lydia leave the house that night, but tells no one.

As the story progresses, we see how grief is overwhelming the Lee family. Marilyn falls apart, staying in Lydia's room all day crying and sleeping. Nathan feels anger and guilt, his plan to escape the home he hates now in jeopardy.

We get the backstory to the Lee family, including the time when Marilyn left the family for awhile. Her absence had long-lasting repercussions for the entire family. The events that led up to Lydia's death are seen through her, Nathan and Hannah's eyes.

There are so many themes here- the stifling of a woman's dreams, lack of honest family communication, the difficulty of being 'the other' in a small homogenous community, the danger of secrets and how an event in a family can have long-last consequences.

Everything I Never Told You is a heartbreaking novel, so beautifully and achingly told by a master storyteller. Watching this family fall apart will bring the reader to tears. It deserves every accolade available and I highly recommend it.

1 comment:

  1. I'm so glad this is good because my book club will be reading it later this year, at my suggestion.