◐ Book Name: Everything I Never Told You
◐ Author: Celeste Ng
◐ Genre: Modern Fiction
◐ Pages: 297
◐ Synopsis (Goodreads):
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.
Recommended for readers who enjoy character studies, slow-paced yet easy reads
death, grief, racism and discrimination, allusion to suicide
◐ Review: 2/5 ⭐
My recent book haul focused on books written by Asian/Asian-American authors. I was hoping for rounded stories that featured more characters like me and my experience, and I’d heard good things about Celeste Ng’s novels.
While Everything I Never Told You proved a quick read, I failed to connect with it. None of the characters rang true for me, though Ng spends most of the book exploring each member of the family, including deceased Lydia. The characters’ struggles were rather too stereotypical in a way that fell flat for me—a bit too one-sided in their presentation.
It’s quite a shame, because the themes Ng tries to convey are relevant to the Asian-American experience: crushing parental expectations, the inability to feel at home, compounded by the added complication of being a mixed-race family living in a primarily white community.
This book is not for those looking for a plot-driven story. It’s mainly a character study, but for me, it fell short in that goal. I could not relate to any of the characters. I didn’t like any of them. Their motivations and actions did not make sense to me. The ending also felt rushed, where everyone suddenly came to their senses at the same time with apparently no real trigger or reason. It was as though the author realised the story wasn’t going anywhere and needed to wrap it up quickly.
Based on the description, I was looking for a book that delved deeply into a mixed family and how their loss forced them to confront themselves and their relationships. It tried, but in the end, it seemed more like a shallow family drama that I could not get invested in. A day after I finished it, the book had already started to fade from my memory.