Everything I Never Told You
By Celeste Ng
The Penguin Press, 2014
I was pulled into this book with its opening line, “Lydia is dead.” Lydia is a teenage girl who goes missing in the middle of the night in a small Ohio town in the 1970s. She is found dead a few days later. Her parents, Marilyn and James Lee, and their two surviving children, Hannah and Nath, move forward, while struggling to understand how Lydia ends up dead. The book tells the story of the family’s grief, and their search for answers, while also recounting their history—how the parents met, how the family got along, and what Lydia’s life was like growing up. This is a book about loss, but it’s also about difference. James is of Chinese descent and the Lee children are the only Eurasian kids in their Midwestern community. As the story of Lydia’s death unfolds, Ng digs into the extent to which her race, and racial identity, lead to it.
This book is one of my favorite reads of the year. I loved Ng’s writing (detailed, but not overly so) and how she built the mystery around the cause of Lydia’s death. I also felt very connected to the characters and their struggles: Hannah the invisible little sister, Nath the older brother on the cusp of going off to college when Lydia dies, James an academic, trying his best to hold himself together, and Marilyn, a housewife who struggles to come to terms with the loss of her bright and shining daughter. This is a moving story of family togetherness and family alienation.
Amazon named this book the Best Book of 2014. Ng was also recently mentioned in a Buzzfeed article featuring “20 Under 40 Debut Writers You Need To Be Reading.”
Ng lives in Massachusetts with her family. I look forward to her next book!
I bought this book at Book Culture.
As much as I love the Kindle for convenience—the ease of buying a book from my bed at 10 pm on a rainy night and the ease of travel with five or 50 books without added luggage weight—I struggle to read on the Kindle on a daily basis.
I don’t like that the title and author name are only visible when I make the header pop up. I will be deeply engrossed in a book and when I talk to someone about it, I can’t remember the title or the author. That never happens with a print book, as I regularly look at the front and back while I am reading.
But the larger issue for me is that the Kindle makes all books look and feel the same. I love the artifact of the book as much as the ideas contained within the pages. I relish the small physical details, like the paper texture, the font, the cover art, the weight of the book in my hands and the scent of its pages. With the Kindle, all the books weigh the same, there is no unique scent and the page and layout begin to blur into one Kindle look and feel.
The sameness of reading on a Kindle reminds me of how I first felt about email. I loved the ease and speed of email when it debuted, but I missed the personal quality of letter, and for the first few years that I had an email account, I continued to write letters and postcards to friends. But now after almost 20 years with email, I rarely send a letter. The future will only tell if I am willing to let go of the book.
And I might not be alone with my book attachment. The latest Nielson Books & Consumer survey showed that in the first half of 2014, paperback purchases were in the lead with 42% of sales, followed by hardcovers for 25% and e-books at 23%.
How about you? Do you read on a Kindle? Do you like it?
Next week I will write about a book I deeply enjoyed, Celeste Ng’s Everything I Never Told You. It was recently chosen as Amazon’s Best Book of 2014, and I fully agree with this accolade.
Ocean City Lowdown
By Kim Kash
Capri House, 2014
Jamie August is a staff writer at the Ocean City Weekly Breeze an arts and entertainment paper in Ocean City, Maryland, but she calls herself an “investigative reporter.” She usually covers stories about dog grooming salons and local events, like a car dealer who put a car on the roof of his dealership, but when she is asked to write a fluff piece about a new high-end housing development, the Bayview Preserve, going up along the coast, she gets a chance to tap in to her investigative instincts. As Jamie learns more about the development, and its history, she uncovers corruption behind the lovely façade that is going up, and gets embroiled with an intriguing cast of characters including a good looking real estate developer and a handful of environmental scientists.
This is a well-paced mystery, a classic summer or airplane read. I found it engaging and well executed. Jamie is a snarky, yet sympathetic, narrator who I enjoyed spending time with and the story twists and turns in satisfying ways. There is mystery, romance and real life intrigue all rolled into the story. The book is also deeply routed in Ocean City, Maryland, with a fun cast of characters, from the Weekly Breeze editor to a local firefighter who Jamie hooks up with after he rescues her from a fire, to the friends she hangs out with.
Kash has also written a travel guide to the area, Ocean City: A Guide to Maryland’s Seaside Resort. She lives in the Middle East.
I received a copy of this book from the author.