Everything I Never Told You

Everything I Never Told You

by Celeste Ng

Overview: “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.

Debbie Weiss (05/30/16): This is a very interesting book, which touches on a variety of contemporary themes. The story takes place in the 1970's. Marilyn and James Lee have three children, but have demons of their own which affect the family dynamic. James is Chinese-American, born in the U.S., but never feeling as though he ever really fit in. Being accepted and popular is of utmost importance to him for his children. Marilyn had aspirations of becoming a doctor, but these plans were thwarted when she became pregnant. Because she could not achieve her dream it is of utmost importance to her that Lydia, her daughter --- the "favorite" child --- achieve that goal.

The children, of course, suffer at the hands of their parents' obsessions. Then Lydia is found dead, drowned in the lake near their home. Who did it? Was it suicide? How does the family cope with the loss of the "favorite" child. This was very well written and totally engaging. As a parent, it made me wonder how my demons might have affected my children.
Rating: ****

Gail Reid (03/09/15): When all is said and done, I believe that family dynamics is the root of all behavior. In "Everything I Never Told You" we meet the 1970's mother Marilyn whose medical school ambition was thwarted by marriage and children; the father James. a Chinese American college professor whose ethnicity has created awkward relationships in his academic career and in their midwestern community; and Lydia their golden child who is expected to live up to her parents' expectations at the expense of her other siblings and whose failure to do so is the heart of this poignant story. This is a beautifully written first novel with thoughtful characters. And although there are dark passages, there are meaningful issues that are explored.
Rating: *****

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