You might have seen Celeste Ng’s novel Everything I Never Told You on many best books of 2014 lists. There’s a reason for it. It’s damned good. In fact, I’m adding it to my list of top books read in 2014 (coming soon).
I received a copy of Everything I Never Told You as part of the Ford Audiobook Club on Goodreads (it’s free to join!), but about 30 minutes in, I knew I needed to actually see and read the words. I have a habit of drifting off during audiobooks and didn’t want to miss a single world of Ng’s book. Here’s how the book opens:
Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.
Set in the 1970s in a small Ohio town, the novel revolves around an interracial Chinese-Caucasian family, a rare combination for not just the small town, but for the 1970s. Lydia is her parents’ favorite, quite possibly because of her long jet black hair and the blue eyes. Blue eyes she inherited from her mother. Marilyn, who was never able to accomplish her dream of becoming a doctor, is determined to turn Lydia into one. She’s so determined in fact, that Marilyn almost ignores her other two children, Nathan and Hannah. James, who was ostracized as a child for being Chinese American, only wishes for his children to fit in and belong.
Lydia was the family’s nucleus, but with a death, everyone’s orbit is disrupted. The Lee family quickly tumbles into chaos. As each person attempts to deal with their grief, we discover each person’s secrets. They can no longer play the role they’ve been assigned. Underneath the happy family facade are dreams deferred. And the loneliness that emcompasses each of them. Will the Lee family learn to survive without Lydia or will their secrets destroy their bond?
This novel is incredibly multilayered. The pacing is perfect as each layer is peeled back to reveal the characters’ pasts and their secrets. Each character felt so real and alive in my head as I read the novel. My heart ached for Marilyn and how lost she felt when Lydia died. Marilyn had lost her only purpose in life-to keep Lydia from becoming a homemaker like she was.
What first drew me into Ng’s novel is that it’s about a biracial family. As the mother of biracial children, I want to see more depictions of families similar to mine in the books I read. Ng didn’t glamourize or dramatize interracial families. She depicted them as an American family who struggled with their pasts and their desires while trying to achieve the American dream.
I highly recommend Everything I Never Told You, either in print or audiobook. It’s perfect for your book club. You won’t run out of topics to discuss in this book.
Have you read this novel yet? What did you think of it?