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.
OH MY GOOD LORD. Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng is an absolutely incredible book. I honestly don’t know how I’m going to write this review, because all I want to do is scream to the world how awesome it is. Because of that, there will be some spoilers in this review. There are also trigger warnings for period-appropriate racism, homophobia and sexism, as well as the death of a teenager.
This (magnificent, incredible, astounding) novel follows one family – Marilyn is a white woman who marries James, an Asian-American man. Their three children, Lydia, Nath, and Hannah are all biracial. I am not biracial, but from what I’ve discussed with other bloggers and friends, I think that the biracial representation was very good. Ng really explores what it means to not fit in, especially in 1970s America. There are some fantastic moments where Marilyn expresses her subconscious thoughts about race as well as sexism – I’d recommend this book just for those. The one thing that I didn’t like was that a character’s sexuality was used for a plot twist
Celeste Ng is such a sensitive and talented author – tiny scenes that are casually described at the beginning of the book slowly come into significance, which was incredible! I wish I hadn’t read it so quickly, because I’m sure there were loads of details that I missed. There are also two timelines: before Lydia’s death, and after, which slowly intersect. I often find this particular device to be a bit of a gimmick which unnecessarily draws out the action, but for Everything I Never Told You, it works beautifully. Being able to see the characters before and after Lydia’s death was absolutely astounding in terms of character development, and building tension.
I cannot wait to read her next novel, Little Fires Everywhere, which is being released September 12th 2017. I have no doubt that I am going to pre-order the HELL out of it.
NB: This is my choice for historical fiction with Asian MC for the Asian Lit Bingo!