Everything I Never Told You

A Novel

Ng, Celeste

Book - 2014
Average Rating: 4 stars out of 5.
Everything I Never Told You
"Lydia is dead. But they don't know this yet. So begins the story...about a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio. 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. "--

Publisher: New York :, Penguin Press HC,, 2014.
ISBN: 9781594205712
Characteristics: 297 pages ;,23 cm


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Jan 14, 2015
  • ehbooklover rated this: 3.5 stars out of 5.

First off: I would definitely not consider this to be a mystery. What it is: a beautifully written book that tells the story of a dysfunctional family who is dealing with unimaginable grief after the unexplainable loss of a loved one. It also examines themes of race, identity, and acceptance. A haunting read that you'll be thinking about long after finishing the last page.

Jan 12, 2015

This novel is particularly good at revealing the silences and buried emotions that exist in all families. It shows how the tragic death of a child, crushed by the weight of her parents' love and expectations, brings family members' raw emotions to the surface and gives voice to long unspoken feelings.

Yet somehow the author takes this intriguing material and turns it into very flat fare. There are too many paint-by-the-numbers characters and plot turns. James Lee, the Chinese-American father, is a cardboard-cutout outsider who has never fit into his birth country and transposes his anxieties and fears onto his favorite daughter Lydia. His white wife Marilyn is equally one-dimensional, a frustrated housewife who has her professional aspirations short-circuited by pregnancy and so spends the rest of her life steering Lydia into the career she never pursued. The youngest daughter Hannah is a silent, wise observer of all the family's hidden dynamics and unexpressed emotions. Oldest son Nath is a stereotypically angry, withdrawn boy who can't wait to escape his claustrophobic family and go away to college. And a sketchy neighborhood boy (Jack) turns out to harbor a predictable secret. In short, the novel reads more like a TV-ready screenplay than a deep, fresh portrait of a grieving family. The prose self-consciously aims to be "literary" but is studded with cliches; there are lots of moons drifting across the sky like balloons, fall leaves toasted by the sun, mashed potatoes fluffed like cotton, and boats sliding across water. There's nothing unexpected or thought-provoking here, no character who challenges readers' received conceptions, no plot turn that we couldn't see a mile away. "Everything I Never Told You" is constructed to conform to what the mainstream thinks a grieving mixed-race family should look like. This isn't to belittle the family's pain or minimize their suffering. It's simply to note that the novel takes the safe route, rendering rich subject matter in monochromatic, flat, and predictable tones.

Jan 02, 2015
  • LPL_PolliK rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

A beautifully written, compulsively readable punch in the gut! A work of insight that leaves you aching for this particular family, for all people who struggle to find a place in the world, and for wounds that will never be healed.

Dec 15, 2014
  • nionoff rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

The reason I picked up this book is because it was chosen as the best new novel of 2014 by Amazon. It did not disappoint! The story deals with the mysterious death of a child, but the layered narrative involves interracial marriage, tiger-mom upbringing, family dynamics and child neglect. Absolutely stunning, certainly one of the best books I read in quite a while.

Nov 29, 2014
  • chenc1 rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

Wonderfully written, powerful novel from a debut novelist. No wonder this book was chosen as the #1 Amazon Best Book of 2014. Really drives home the point - how well do we really know one another, even our own family members? Nothing is as it seems.

Nov 03, 2014
  • ValleyViewLibrarians rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

Intricately plotted and with luminous characterizations, this will appeal to readers who like to be wholly immersed in their stories. Ng expertly uses five different voices to slowly peel back what seems like hundreds of layers in this family drama, creating an authentic family portrait that is equally tragic and beautiful.

Oct 30, 2014
  • gusmcrae rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

"Everything I Never Told You" is a pretty amazing first novel. When the story opens, the family's middle daughter, Lydia, has gone missing. She is dead (the novel's opening line reveals this), and her death causes the family to unravel. I'll admit, when I first started the book, I thought it was going to be a lot like "The Lovely Bones"--middle class family in 1970s middle America loses their daughter. But this story took a different path. The Lee family is a "mixed" family--James is Chinese American and Marilyn is a white from Virginia. Both parents had high hopes for Lydia, brought on by their own failures and insecurities. James has always felt like out outcast as the "Oriental" in the white world. Marilyn's dreams of being a doctor (being something more than her own Home Ec teaching mother had been), were lost when she learned she would be a mother. Ng unwraps their stories through alternating narratives, and includes the perspectives of oldest son, Nathan and youngest daughter, Hannah, who have lived their lives in Lydia's shadow.

Ng has a beautiful way with words and brought each of the characters to life so clearly that I truly felt the pain of the the loss of Lydia. I also am impressed with the depth of Ng's storytelling. She managed to turn a story about a family's tragedy into a larger reflection on race and gender in this country during this past century.

I look forward to this author's future works.

Oct 11, 2014
  • becker rated this: 3.5 stars out of 5.

A thoughtful book. It would offer great conversation in a book club.

Aug 26, 2014
  • joanalang rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

Lovely writing, many-layered, complex unwinding of a family's grief, pain and loss, and some important discoveries along their shared and separate paths. Many issues of gender, race, discrimination and the damage it does, longings and disappointments--and, most poignantly, the damage that well-intentioned and loving parents, who are themselves damaged by their own histories and parents, can inflict on their children. Hard to believe this assured and moving novel is the author's first. I really cared about her characters, and I will surely be looking for her books to come.

Aug 18, 2014

"A first novel by a Pushcart Prize-winning writer explores the fallout of a favorite daughter's shattering death on a Chinese-American family in 1970s Ohio." Fiction A to Z August 2014 newsletter http://www.libraryaware.com/996/NewsletterIssues/ViewIssue/a4f4d377-8dd6-440e-bb35-99f389939f47?postId=03c1c147-b517-499d-b132-6db115231ff1

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Jan 15, 2015
  • siammarino rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

The apparent suicide of their daughter Lydia threatens to tear the Lee family apart. As Chinese Americans in a small Ohio town, they already feel marginalized. This is a great novel about minorities, prejudice, and parenting mistakes. Never force your child into the career you wished you had pursued!!


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