Title: “Everything I Never Told You”
Author: Celeste Ng
By the time my hold at the library for this book was up, I had completely forgotten what it was about or why I wanted to read it. Instead of reading a summary to remind myself, I delved in and found myself sufficiently interested after just a few pages. “Everything I Never Told You” quickly grabs your attention by stating in the first line that one of the book’s character is already dead, unbeknownst to her family.
Due to the novel’s beginning, I was expecting a bit of a mystery, but much like another novel I recently read (“He’s Gone”), this book is really more about relationships between the characters. Throughout the book, we go into the past and back to the present as we learn more about the history, motivations and thoughts of the members of the Lee family. The writing flows relatively well, though the jumping back and forth between time periods does feel disjointed at times.
The story is very tragic in many regards, from the neglectful actions of the parents to the untimely death of Lydia. Although the book ends on a tentatively positive note, I was left feeling saddened and wondering if any of the characters really did learn anything; I could easily see a sequel about their bleak future. True change is difficult to come by, especially when the family was so entrenched in their attitudes towards each other and life.
Overall, the novel kept me interested until the very end, but I don’t really feel that the tragic beauty of this book will linger with me for long. If the parent’s actions had been more subtle and not unbelievably awful, I think there would have been lessons to be learned from this book as the characters would have been more relatable. As it was, I just found them too terrible to want to learn anything from. However, I will say that I would be interested in reading future books from the author. I think this is a strong debut novel from a new author, just not a favorite book of mine.