Book Review: "Everything I Never Told You" by Celeste NG


“Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.” So begins this exquisite novel about a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio. Lydia is the favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee, and her parents are determined that she will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue. But when Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together is destroyed, tumbling them into chaos.

A profoundly moving story of family, secrets, and longing, Everything I Never Told You is both a gripping page-turner and a sensitive family portrait, uncovering the ways in which mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, and husbands and wives struggle, all their lives, to understand one another.

Originally I had never planned to read Celest NG's book when I was purchasing it among other selections from my local bookstore as I intended this pick as a birthday present for my older sister who was already a proclaimed fan of the author. As it turned out, through my not-so-subtle inquiring about my sister's favorite authors (accompanied by the sleuthing failure of not asking what books she already owned), I ended up gifting my sister a book she currently owned. So I found myself in possession of a copy of NG's novel and a firm recommendation from my older sister to read the book anyway.

It isn't that I don't usually read books like Everything I Never Told You, it's that NG's novel is the first of its kind I've ever encountered. I won't beat around the bush; I loved this emotional story and lost the battle against my flowing tears at the end of chapter eleven. I'm glad this novel fell into my lap because it was worth flipping through every silky page from cover to cover. There is a tremendously powerful portrayal of family, and each member of this fictional family any audience member will quickly identify with on a personal level. The emotions in this book are palpably raw and boast an inviting intrigue. This is a book that should absolutely not be missed by anyone.

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