Title: Everything I Never Told You
Author: Celeste Ng
Genre: Literary Fiction, Family, Historical Fiction
Publication: June 26, 2014
Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet . . . So begins this 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 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.
I would give this a hundred stars if I could.
This novel was an absolutely stunning read. It tells a story of a mixed race family dealing with the death of their middle daughter. Celeste Ng manages to discuss a wide variety of issues from depression to prejudice, from broken family dynamics to the struggle to belong. It was beautifully crafted; this novel tells the story of each character and jumps from the years leading up to Lydia’s death to the weeks after her death.
This book was so personal to me. I could seriously relate to some of the conflicts that the characters were dealing with, and I think everyone can find a part of them in at least one of the characters. The dynamic between the Lee family members was heartbreaking and gut-wrenching to read but still maintained its believability which added to conflicting emotions. Every member of the family was flawed but they were so realistic, and it was impossible not to fall in love with all of them. Ng has a way of writing her characters, so the reader becomes extremely invested in them.
I already mentioned this earlier, but the novel was very well executed. Celeste Ng’s writing style is simple yet poignant; she doesn’t weigh down the already heavy topics that her novel is discussing by adding unnecessarily flowery or complex language. Instead, her surprisingly simple but beautiful prose draws the reader in and does not let them go. Furthermore, the structure of the book, despite jumping around time periods, flows smoothly and does not confuse the reader at all. Instead, the slow reveal of the secrets behind each character interspersed with scenes of the family’s deleterious coping methods, captivated me. I wanted to read this book fast because I wanted to find out more about the family and the events, but I wanted to savor and absorb each page slowly at the same time.
Honestly, I am in awe of this novel. After reading many fast-paced fantasy novels, I really appreciated this character-driven book. The way Celeste Ng discusses so many crucial subjects in an emotional and poignant novel is fantastic. A definite favorite for this year.
11/10 would recommend