& Review: Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng. Fiction. Publisher: Penguin Press

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng.
Fiction. Publisher: Penguin Press

The Book Itself: Simplistic, pretty intriguing. I couldn’t help but try to read the little snippets of writing left on the “notes” that make up the title.

My Review: Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet . . . So begins this debut novel about a mixed-race family living in 1970s Ohio and the tragedy that will either be their undoing or their salvation. 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.

This book is less about the crime of Lydia’s passing (which turns out to be tragic, yes, but not overly nefarious or complex), and more of how the family member’s pasts come to screw up their presents, and how their faults mess them up overall. It’s certainly well-written. It’s just a tad…predictable.

I knew what James’ – the father’s – mistake would be before he did it. The current timeline of the story is interspersed with scenes from the past – James and Marilyn meeting, marrying, her temporary absence, etc. etc. etc. The whole book is well-written, but these glimpses of the past are more riveting, more real than the present scenes. Images like Marilyn crying in the care, an old fashioned cookbook in her arms, and her fighting with her mother at the courthouse before she gets married to a man not of her race are powerful images.

And it’s hard to say what I disliked about this one. It was…nice. As nice as a story about a tragic death of a young girl and the slow ripping apart of the family she left behind can be. Maybe I would have actually liked it more if things had turned out messier in the end. It ends very neatly. Loose ends, personal issues, the great big mystery of Lydia’s death…it’s all okay by the end. Which it probably shouldn’t be.

Overall, it’s an okay story of characters who have flawed, but common problems. I felt as if it did not get as complex as it should, and did not end as messy as it would have been in real life. I get the impression that the Lee’s will continue along quite happily, Lydia and they’re incorrect picture of who she was will just fade immediately into background music. Not really cool.

My Grade: C+


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