Tuesday, February 28, 2017

"Everything I Never Told You" by Celeste Ng

For more than a year now, I've been hearing about Celeste Ng's Everything I Never Told You. That cover immediately jumped out at me, which made me want to read it even more! However, I have a gigantic TBR list, so the chances of actually getting to it were slim. But then I found it on Audible Channels (a Prime benefit), and I listened to the whole thing in under two weeks, which is very fast for me with audiobooks.

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.

Everything I Never Told You is engaging. Interesting. Frustrating. Thought-provoking. I finished listening to the audiobook a couple weeks ago, and I keep going back and forth with my opinion. There's no denying the book is written well, but I sooooo wanted to shake some sense into certain characters! I also didn't love the way the book ended. Maybe it's because I prefer to read books that have a happy, satisfying ending ... and this book doesn't. The whole novel is just so tragic, and while I know that Ng's choice of what happened to Lydia and how to reveal that ends up being more realistic than some other choices would have been, I don't have to like what happened.

I also thought the middle section went on a bit too long with minimal movement in the mystery of what happened to Lydia. Had I been reading instead of listening, I probably would have skimmed those pages, and I don't think I would have missed anything vital to the story.

I have to say, though, that the book does powerfully illustrate just how little people know one another, and it shows how important communication is, especially within a family.

Everything I Never Told You is undoubtedly a good book. It's just not a book I really enjoyed. 3-1/2 stars.

Note: This book contains some strong language and non-explicit sexual content (including an affair), so I would not recommend it to younger readers.

Buy the book.
Read my sister's take on the book.

Celeste Ng is the author of the novel Everything I Never Told You. She grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Shaker Heights, Ohio, in a family of scientists. Her fiction and essays have appeared in One Story, TriQuarterly, Bellevue Literary Review, and elsewhere, and she is a recipient of the Pushcart Prize. Currently, she lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with her husband and son. To learn more about her and her work, visit her website at http://celesteng.com or follow her on Twitter: @pronounced_ing.

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