Contemporary, Family, Fiction

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

I was really hesitant to read this novel. It just seemed too … tragic. And I also don’t really like reading novels that deal with issues of race and culture and stereotypes. I think this hesitation comes from the fact that I myself had to deal with these issues as a child and would read a plethora of books on these topics back in elementary school. It never made anything easier and I almost began to resent the ease with which the main character solved their problems. But I knew I had to give this novel a try, especially after all of the raving reviews I had heard about it. So here goes:

In the 1970s, it is a rare thing to see Chinese Americans. It is even more rare to see a mixed family where one parent is Caucasian and the other is Chinese. Such is the case with the Lee family; Marilyn and James Lee went against the odds and got married, lived happily, and had three children. Their daughter, Lydia, is the apple of their eye and the child that they know will fulfill all of the dreams they were never able to reach. But when Lydia goes missing – and then is found dead – the Lee family is torn apart. Through this tragedy, we see a portrait of relationships between each family member to each other – and to Lydia, the child that made them all whole.

This novel was so sad. Very good but extremely sad. The story revolves around Lydia and is told from every family member’s perspective. It moves between different time points so that you have to put the pieces together to get the full story. At the end of the day, I just felt bad for every single one of the children. It broke my heart to see the ways in which James and Marilyn tried and failed to understand their kids – until the very end, when it was too late. This was a beautifully tragic novel and I can definitely see why people recommend this novel. If you are looking for something emotionally raw and beautifully written and incredibly deep, then this is the book for you!

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