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Lydia is the favourite child of Marilyn and James Lee; 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 centre of every party But Lydia is under pressures that have nothing to do with growing up in 1970s small town Ohio Her father is an American born of first generation Chinese immigrants and his ethnicity and hers make them conspicuous in any setting When Lydia's body is found in the local lake James is consumed by guilt and sets out on a reckless path that may destroy his marriage Marilyn devastated and vengeful is determined to make someone accountable no matter what the cost Lydia's older brother Nathan is convinced that local bad boy Jack is somehow involved But it's the youngest in the family Hannah who observes far than anyone realises and who may be the only one who knows what really happened Everything I Never Told You is a gripping page turner about secrets love longing lies and race


10 thoughts on “Everything I Never Told You

  1. says:

    this book is absolutely perfectit's easily one of the best contemporary family dramas i have ever read and i have read than a fewng's prose is outstanding and her characters are vibrant completely three dimensional and the way their stories knot up in each other is superbit opens with the death of sixteen year old lydia the beloved middle child of marilyn and james lee marilyn and james are a mixed race chinesecaucasian couple living in a small town in ohio in the seventies where such relationships were still extremely uncommon in the united states anti miscegenation laws were only declared to be unconstitutional by the supreme court in 1967 which is a little mind boggling but there it is race plays a role in the conflicts of the novel but it's just one component in what is really a story of family dynamics How had it begun? Like everything with mothers and fathers Because of Lydia's mother and father because of her mother's and father's mothers and fathersBecause than anything her mother had wanted to stand out; because than anything her father had wanted to blend in Because those things had been impossiblemarilyn grew up in virginia the daughter of a home economics teacher who always wore gloves outside the house and whose greatest dream for her daughter was to meet a lot of wonderful Harvard men marilyn has ambitious plans with her scholarship to radcliffe her ultimate goal is med school and she excels in her physics and chemistry classes enduring the condescension of her all male classmates which is confusing to me because in 1955 radcliffe was still an all female school as far as i know in order to achieve her real objective to end up nothing like her mother Late at night bent over her textbooks while her roommate wound curlers into her hair and patted cold cream onto her cheeks and went to bed Marilyn sipped double strength tea and kept awake by picturing herself in a white doctor's coat laying a cool hand against a feverish forehead touching a stethoscope to a patient's chest It was the furthest thing she could imagine from her mother's life where sewing a neat hem was a laudable accomplishment and removing beet stains from a blouse was cause for celebration Instead she would blunt pain and stanch bleeding and set bones She would save lives Yet in the end it happened just as her mother predicted she met a manthe man is james lee fourth year graduate student and marilyn's teacher for The Cowboy in American Culture who is in the terminology of the day an Oriental specifically a Chinaman after the very first class marilyn goes to his office and kisses him and from then on they're together which abruptness seems a little out of left field but it makes sense somehow for her part she thinks He understands What it's like to be different and he does and his attraction to her comes from the completely opposite direction because she had blended in so perfectly because she had seemed so completely and utterly at homeKILLS MEjames' father had emigrated to america under a false name after a ban had been placed on chinese immigrants james was born in america but he always felt alien at best a novelty at worst the object of ridicule and casual racism self taught and trying to shed the stain of the immigrant; the shame of being the son of a janitor and a lunch lady eating his mother's dumplings in a sea of privileged white faces james had always been aiming for assimilation lonely friendless unathletic james has felt other his whole life until america in the shape of a blonde haired blue eyed woman accepts him marries him despite the protestations of her motherthis is probably too much detail tl;dr and all but i am just so gobsmacked with how perfectly ng has set this family up to be doomed this is thomas hardy level cause and effect intricacy and i'm not going to give too much away this is just backstory the real meat hasn't even been served up yet uickly uickly because there's still so much to celebrate they have three children the first of which nathan effectively ends marilyn's career dreams lydia is the middle child dead on page one; the daughter each parent has hung their own missed opportunities upon her father wants her to make friends to be popular as he never was and her mother wants her to have the academic success and career she gave up for her family and then there's hannah the youngest; an afterthought freuently overlooked even when she is in the same room but the keenest observer and the only one able to see the big picture so the story is manyfold finding out how lydia ended up at the bottom of a lake and you will this isn't one of those ambiguous endings but although she is the center of the narrative by the time all is revealed it almost doesn't matter this book is about character where the idea of family is a character all its own it's about the pressures put on children by parents children wanting to please parents making assumptions siblings caught between jealousy and sympathy infidelity and sacrifice the poison of the american dream racial identity and what happens to a family after their lynchpin is removedeverything about this book kicked my ass each and every character had a story that was profound and devastating and i cried like a kitten on fire which is very rare and always a delicious surprisethe i think about this book the i love it so many tiny moments that splintered into my feeling bits such uiet understated scenes that are haunting me still i cannot believe this is her first bookand i cannot wait for the next onetoo many feels etc etccome to my blog


  2. says:

    “Before that she hadn’t realized how fragile happiness was how if you were careless you could knock it over and shatter it” This book is a fantastic character portrait I don't read these kinds of stories too often family dramas with a focus on the everyday but when I do I'm usually pleasantly surprised As much as I'm a lover of amazing story arcs with problems and terrifying conseuences there really is something so fascinating about peopleA book that focuses on the dynamics between the members of an American family in the 1970s should be slow and yet I finished this book in a single sitting Probably because the characters are so rich and well drawn Celeste Ng has portrayed the intricate details of these people of their relationships of their complex web of contradictory emotionsNg opens with the statement Lydia is dead Then she delves into the lives of the Lee family as they learn of her disappearance and eventually have to deal with the loss of their beloved daughter and sister The timeline of the novel skips from past to present weaving in a history of the characters gradually revealing the subtle ways this seemingly close knit family do not know each other at allIt is subtle which actually makes it dramatic in my opinion It incorporates sexism racism and miscegenation without becoming a story about any of them This uiet book is so powerful and haunting in the complexity of its simple moments and interactions The central story of the book Lydia's death is a platform on which the author explores this family because it is really about the lives of people The way Marilyn and James fulfill a need for each other that goes beyond love it's also a sense of belonging and understanding they can't find elsewhere The layers of love jealousy and uiet resentment between people I don't know how an author manages to make the mundane so vivid and so fascinatingI felt so emotionally pulled into this book that it seems weird to emerge into the real world and find that these characters are not real I'm left with a lingering sadness and a need to read whatever Celeste Ng writes nextBlog | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Youtube | Pinterest


  3. says:

    finished this in one sitting if you need me i'll be over here bathing in my tears


  4. says:

    Hmmmm uintessential MFA graduate writing which is to say lyrical creative prose that captures emotion in the details following the MFA formula of show; don't tell to provide character exposition The author shows us the interiority of her characters brilliantly and then goes on to slam us over the head with explicit telling as if we're complete morons who can't figure it out for ourselves Further the themes that guide the relationships in this family are so over the top and one note Ie mother's vicarious ambition for daughter is an attempt to resurrect and fulfill her own thwarted aspirations that the every exchange revolves around whatever singular force guides the particular relationship in a way that is exhaustingly heavy handed This interfered with enjoying the book and getting invested in the characters for me Despite the beautiful writing I didn't believe for a minute that one of these characters was real and I didn't buy any if the relationships They all felt like symbols or allegories almost the way characters in fairy take would I craved a little complexity and depth from the relationships in the family and although I couldn't put the book down found myself feeling a little meh when I was finished


  5. says:

    The first chapter was great I was expecting an exciting mysterythriller I was anxious to find out how Lydia disappeared Then the rest of the book happenedI hated all of the characters I hated the perfectly executed sentences I hated the story I hated the ending Oh and I really hated how half of the book was written in italics I would usually insert something sarcastic or witty here about the use of italics in the book but I just can't do it But man I hated her overuse of slanting letters to the right and writing choppy sentence fragments to attempt to make me care about this stupid bookFirst it was The MartianThen it was The Girl on the TrainAnd now it's this horrible lifeless book with wooden characters that no one cares about and hundreds of wasted pages on the past of the stupid characters that no one cares aboutI'm done with popular overhyped books like this There are too many great books out there and I refuse to waste my time on something like this againHey was I clear on how much I hated this book?Just wanted to be sure


  6. says:

    Gorgeously written Really subtle storytelling but the tension built in a really excruciating smart way that kept me holding my breath I also love how Ng approached writing the challenges of identity and difference for both women and people of color as well as how much the burden of expectations can truly weigh


  7. says:

    I received this book for review from Penguin Boy oh boy was I impressed by this book Before I started reading it I was expecting something Lovely Bones esc No So much better This story is kicks off with the reader finding out about the death of the favorite child Lydia with this I assumed it would just be an emotional book about finding the cause of death ect ect Nope But also yes This book's scope is beyond what I was first expecting and branches off in so many directions as we follow the families' lives after and before the death of Lydia This book is truly about Everything I never Told You the book focuses on each member of the family their hopes fears dreams ect and how at so many important parts of their lives they never voiced any of it and showed the conseuences of doing so Additionally this book is set in the 1970's and deals with both race Identity and gender Identity This book was truly a treat and I will be doing a full review soon on my channel


  8. says:

    I did not enjoy reading this book The story of this broken family was just so sad and I found that the I read the harder it was to read I felt a constant knot in my stomachYet I gave it four starsIt’s the 1970's and James of Chinese descent born in the US has since he was a young boy just wanted to fit in The racism he experiences through his life follows to present day and to his mixed race children He focuses his need and desire to fit in on his middle daughter Lydia He wants her to be popular and have friends His wife Marilyn wants to stand out She wanted to become a Doctor at a time when it was a man’s world and not easy for women to move into that world She doesn't succeed and now is transferring her hopes and dreams and expectations on Lydia Marilyn's lost dream seems like an obsession – she has now made it Lydia's dream pushing her so hard reading science books to a little girl instead of bedtime stories Lydia did what her mother wanted because she didn’t want her mother to leave again as she once did in search of her dreamWhat was so difficult was seeing James and Marilyn focus their attentions and their aspirations on their middle daughter Lydia while their oldest son Nath and youngest daughter Hannah suffer in silence to say nothing of the impact of this attention on Lydia It is through flashbacks that we learn about James’ and Marilyn’s pasts and how it has affected their children when the story returns to the present dayWhile I felt for the parents and what they had gone through my heart was broken for these children as they transferred their hopes and dreams on their daughter and hurt all of them My heart was broken for all of them but especially the youngest child Hannah who is almost invisible to her familyBut yet I gave it four stars because Ng has masterfully developed these characters and the story We learn everything about them inside and out We know what they look like and we know how much they hurt the pain they bear I gave it four stars also because while I didn’t like the parents very much I loved the children and in the end felt that there might be some hope for Nath and Hannah in spite of the tragedy that befalls this family


  9. says:

    What a wonderful book to start off the new year This has been on my shelf for years and I'm kicking myself for not picking it up soonerThis story starts with a small seed Lydia Lee is dead and blossoms in every direction Through non linear perspective shifts each member of Lydia's family deals with their grief in different ways reflecting on their lives and filling us in on of the mystery We come to understand the expectations and dreams each had for themselves as well as Lydia and how damaging they can beI don't think this book will be for everyone as it's very character focused with little plot driving it forward Instead we dive deeper into each character's psyche and examine the family's relationships with one another and themselves If you're looking for a fast paced mystery this one isn't for you With all that being said I loved it and highly recommend if you're looking for a historical mystery


  10. says:

    35 starsThere’s a uiet and almost simple beauty to Celeste Ng’s storytelling She’s not a writer that relies on a breakneck pace or frilly overtures to capture readers Instead Ng employs the emotional beings that live among her pages and their relatable family dynamics to do the job Each character takes a turn tiptoeing into the room catching the reader almost unaware and inciting a level of curiosity Curiosity that morphs into a uest for answers in ways than oneSomething to keep in mind should you find yourself as eager to pick this book up as I was this is not a plot centric novel but rather a slow paced character study The storyline delves into who these characters are to their very core and what experiences have fed into their outlook on life Again it's an unhurried but purposeful narrative Everything I Never Told You brings readers into the lives of the Lees the lone Chinese American family living in small town Ohio in the late 1970s The story opens with the disappearance of the middle child fifteen year old Lydia Naturally when the daughter they’ve pinned all of their hopes on—she’s the favorite—fails to show up to the breakfast table the parents panic Amongst the pain following Lydia's demise is the somber unraveling of things once held true Ng utilizes the Lee family to explore the intricacies of relationships when truths remain unsaid When a misguided sense of self preservation or a desire to spare feelings allows thought and truth to remain unspoken “People decide what you’re like before they even get to know you” That message is the talisman I’m choosing to pocket from this experience Those words are a simple reminder to stand up to the expectations and generalizations coming from every angle Finding the confidence and gumption to make my voice heard is essential I know easier said than done in some situations right?This being my second experience with Celeste Ng’s work I thought I knew what I was in for but not uite The cloyingly depressive nature of this storyline caught me a bit off guard Which I have to be honest led to a longer read time than anticipated On the days when I did succumb to the gentle tug of the pages the Lees stole a tiny sliver of my sunshine Still while their reality is stifling at times the overall message is one I can respectEven though this novel hasn’t earned a place among those I’ve deemed best of the best I certainly wouldn’t hesitate to pick up the author’s next release And if you haven’t already I highly recommend checking out Little Fires Everywhere If I'm being completely honest I enjoyed that one a tad With that novel Ng again explores the intricacies of relationships namely between mothers and their daughters Thanks to my lovely local library for the borrowed copy