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.
Ng lives in Massachusetts with her family. I look forward to her next book!
I bought this book at Book Culture.