Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet . . . So begins the story of this exquisite debut novel, about a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio.
A profoundly moving story of family, history, and the meaning of home, Everything I Never Told You is both a gripping page-turner and a sensitive family portrait, exploring the divisions between cultures and the rifts within a family, and uncovering the ways in which mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, and husbands and wives struggle, all their lives, to understand one another.
My take: 3 looks
Family dynamics are at the heart of this debut novel by Celeste Ng. The “golden child” of the family, Lydia, has drowned, and because she was the center of everyone’s else’s trajectory, the remaining family members begin to move in ways that are foreign to them. While this threatens the balance of the family, each member also makes decisions in the aftermath of the tragedy that will affect their dynamics and relationships for years to come.
Parents James and Marilyn want very different things for their children, and are not aware of how consuming and at odd their desires are. Older brother Nathan and youngest Hannah have always revolved around Lydia, and are now both adrift in both intense grief and a ray hope with which they can’t quite come to terms. In a world where every gift, every conversation and every disappointment carries deep underlying meaning, this family is broken to a level that no one can see from the outside.
“James wanted to…”, “Marilyn should have…”, “Nathan would always wonder…”. These are the sentences that propel the story full-force through a tunnel. The emergence of the remaining members of the family on the other side was both heartening and satisfying.