Book Review: Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

Published: 2014

Pages: 292

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Sypnosis 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.

My thoughts:

This was such a heartbreaking read, from the start. Lydia’s death sets the foundation for the novel and what follows is utterly remarkable and and something I won’t forget for a long time now. 

These characters, from the complex back story of Lydia’s parents; complex being a white American woman and a Chinese American (they fell in love at a time when interracial marriages were forbidden), therefore Marilyn’s mother was horrified at this and refused to acknowledge her daughter after that, purely because she disagreed with her daughter’s choice of a husband. 

The book jumps between past and present, after Lydia passes away, there’s her funeral and her beloved brother coming to terms with what happened to her, self blame (we learn why exactly as the story goes on), and the reaction of Nath’s (Lydia’sbrother) and their little sister, which was so sad as she seemed so fragile, so scared to put a foot wrong, my heart ached for her too. 

So as soon as I started this book and learnt of Lydia’s death, I was wondering “why?”, as in “why would she do this?” But as I read on things started to come together, and it was really heartbreaking to go into Lydia’s thoughts as we had a taste of what things were really like for her. 

SLIGHT SPOILER AHEAD 

While their was a sad undertone throughout the book, the whole story was utterly heartbreaking as it reached its end, especially living Lydia’s last moments. I’m still unsure of what she was thinking, I mean, she knew she couldn’t swim, but I think everything had just hit her and she thought she couldn’t turn back. Part of me will believe that she was hopeful, though that could be a delusion on my part. 

Nonetheless I think this book should be compulsory reading for all and even though there weren’t many chapters at all, it felt like it was the perfect length. Read it and I dare you NOT to be moved. Definitely something I’ll be revisiting. I adore how Celeste Ng wrote so naturally, all her characters were flawed and brought out so many emotions in me, from anger to frustration to immense sadness. But in turn I think we all could learn something from this book, this is certainly a life affirming read.

And that concludes my review, until next time, happy reading,

Brooklyn 🙂 

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