- Written By: Celeste Ng
- Narrated By: Cassandra Campbell
- Published By: Penguin Press, June 26, 2014
- Length: 10 hours and 1 minute
- Source: Gift
A haunting debut novel about a mixed-race family living in 1970s Ohio and the tragedy that will either be their undoing or their salvation.
Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet . . . So begins the story of this exquisite debut novel, about a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio. Lydia is the favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee; their middle daughter, a girl who inherited her mother’s bright blue eyes and her father’s jet-black hair. Her parents are determined that Lydia will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue—in Marilyn’s case that her daughter become a doctor rather than a homemaker, in James’s case that Lydia be popular at school, a girl with a busy social life and the center of every party.
When Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together tumbles into chaos, forcing them to confront the long-kept secrets that have been slowly pulling them apart. James, consumed by guilt, sets out on a reckless path that may destroy his marriage. Marilyn, devastated and vengeful, is determined to find a responsible party, no matter what the cost. Lydia’s older brother, Nathan, is certain that the neighborhood bad boy Jack is somehow involved. But it’s the youngest of the family—Hannah—who observes far more than anyone realizes and who may be the only one who knows the truth about what happened.
A profoundly moving story of family, history, and the meaning of home, Everything I Never Told You is both a gripping page-turner and a sensitive family portrait, exploring the divisions between cultures and the rifts within a family, and uncovering the ways in which mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, and husbands and wives struggle, all their lives, to understand one another.
While this is the second book I’ve read about teen suicide this year, the themes and underlying reasons are different. I had thought this was a young adult book, but it is adult but I think it could be read an appreciate by older teens.
Lydia appears to have a good life, appearances are often deceiving. She tells her parents she’s out with all her girlfriends, friends she hasn’t been close to in years. She makes good grades, works hard but knows she is fulfilling her parents dreams and not her own. She is frightened and worried about her brother Nathan going to Harvard. She even attempts to hide his acceptance letter.
Since the book begins with Lydia missing, and then found drowned in the pond behind their home, there are flashbacks and current story lines happening in the book. The looks back show a family built out of perceptions on race and prejudice. The love story of James and Marilyn also gives the reader pause, wondering what does one give up to be married? What does it feel like to be racially different? James in Chinese, not a white American, but still all American and teaching a course about the Western movies.
I loved this book despite it’s sad topic and feel. It incites discussion with yourself and others if you should choose it for a book group. It’s about expectations and the pressure they put on our children,and ourselves. The book shares what people do when they are in unhappy marriages, trying to retrieve their dreams or pursuing fantasies that can break the bonds they’e committed to.
A word about the narration. Cassandra Campbell is one of my favorite narrators and her work on this audio was outstanding.
I highly recommend this book, and I plan on sharing my print copy with the HS library, it’s important to share this book with young people.