Book Review: Everything I Never Told You

Title: Everything I Never Told You

Author: Celeste Ng

Genre: Literary Fiction, Historical Fiction

Release Date: June 26th, 2014

Publisher: Penguin Press

Rating: ★★★★★

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.


There is something so subtly genius about how this whole novel is crafted, how history goes by in side remarks but moments are etched into one, how we only get to really know five (kind of six?) characters but how do we know them by the end.

It is a tragedy of miscommunication, though that much you cal tell from the synopsis. Objects, from a cookbook to a box of condoms, have meaning, but it is never the same for anyone. Words have their own meaning too, especially the unfinished and the unsaid. As a reader you get to experience precisely what they never told each other, and the narrative voice flows seamlessly between perspectives, shedding light in the most poignant of ways.

It is a tale of family, of how the past never really leaves us. That which haunted our parents finds its own way to haunt us. Expectations, even silent ones, suffocate. Past and present mirror each other, and yet they are something different altogether.

Ng cleverly plays off the expectations of her premise. Beautiful, promising teenage girl dead before her time? We’ve all heard this. And yet her execution is so elegant, the realistic and poetic intersect to create something unique. The stakes are not some evil killer, but human understanding.

Also the writing took me a little to get used too, but once immersed it is wonderful. The sentences are sometimes simple but striking all the same. It’s made me want to read everything else she publishes.

Advertisements Share this:
Like this:Like Loading... Related