Title: Everything I Never Told You
Author: Celeste Ng
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Rating: 1 Star
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.
Review – MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
‘This ghostly novel calls to mind The Lovely Bones,’ well while I have only seen the movie at this point I am fairly confident in saying, no. This is nothing like The Lovely Bones. TLB is a magically sad story which is also about accepting things, with diverse characters and feeling. This story is filled with just horrible characters on every front. I say the alternate title for this story would be “How to be a disgusting person and a bad parent 101.” Do not compare this book to TLB.
Because this book review will be more rant than review, there will be spoilers. I cannot recommend this book to anyone, so this will be my only warning.
The plot of this book, was just not what I was looking for I think. This combined with the just wretchedness of the characters did not work for me, but I shall talk more about them later. This book deals with a family whose oldest daughter went missing and was found dead in a lake by the families home. It focuses on how they come to terms with her death, and all the things that lead up until the moment they found out she was gone. I think one of the biggest issues I had with this was we never actually found out how she died. If we did, I missed it, but to me with was all left up in the air. Did she go out onto the lake despite the fact she couldn’t swim, fell out of the boat and then drowned? Was she taken out there by another person and then was killed? Was it an accident with another person there and they were too afraid to say anything? Was it suicide? I don’t know.
In this points defence though, it was realistic in the sense that people who suffer this kind of loss don’t always get closure like this. I cannot accept it though when I hated everything else. I guess when I was going into this book too, I was expecting it to sort of be from the dead girls perspective because of the title. I guess it did mention some things that none of the family said to each other, because this family doesn’t talk, but yeah. Wrong footing from the get go.
Now onto the part that was probably the most painful, the characters. I think the only ones I liked were the children. The way they were ‘acting out’ or less than stella people were because they were just trying to come to grips with what has happened. The parents on the other hand seemed to be making the worst decisions even before everything went down.
The children state at the very start of the book that the daughter who died was the favourite child, and they very rarely actually get any of their parents, specially the mother’s, attention. We then go back and get some backstory as to why this is. This is because the mother was so against being what her mother wanted her to be, which was a stay at home cook and wife and to pump out kids. Then after her mother dies and she goes off the clean out her house, she realises that she has done exactly that and freaks out. So then she makes the wonderful decision to, instead of discussing her issues with her husband and explaining things and organising to do the change as a family, decides to abandon her family in the middle of the night and leave without saying a word, and only comes back when she realises that she is pregnant again. When she is forced to come home she decides that she will live through her oldest daughter, putting much pressure and stress on her. I also believe that when she dies that she moves on to doing the same thing with one of her other children.
Then there is the father, who pretty much leaves the family after his daughter dies, going off and sleeping with his students. He also has the huge issue of being ashamed of his family, that they were poor and Asian, hating the fact that people stare at his family because his wife is white and his children bi-cultural, and really hating anything that makes him or anyone around him stand out in anyway.
I could go on all day. But in conclusion, I felt the children were much more mature and just straight up better people and I felt for them and what they have and were going through in their lives. The parents on the other hand I cannot get over how much they disgusted me, so I will end this rant here. I am sorry for the way this review turned out, I generally just don’t have anything nice to say. I know other people have loved this book, reviewers I admire, but for me this was obviously not my thing.
Till Next Time…