Thursday, May 16, 2019

Everything I Never Told You (Celeste Ng)

The opening lines of Celeste Ng's Everything I Never Told You shocks you from the very beginning: "Lydia is dead. But they don't know this yet." Based on these lines, the reader obviously assumes that this book is some type of mystery. But what Ng surprisingly does instead is make what happened to Lydia the secondary part of the story. Instead, this is a book about a family in turmoil, both before Lydia died and after.

Set in the 70s, Everything I Never Told You is about Marilyn and James Lee and their children, a Chinese American family living in a small town. Even though she has two other children, Marilyn's attention is focused on Lydia, making sure she has the opportunities (whether or not she even wants them is beside the point) that Marilyn never had. The family struggles to overcome the hardships in their lives until one day, Lydia goes missing.

This is a page-turner at the beginning, but I found the last quarter of the book dull and even confusing. However, Ng does create here a profoundly moving narrative of a family trying to understand each other and wondering if it's too late to mend its connections.