.

.

March 5, 2015

Everything I Never Told You



Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
Fiction
2014 Penguin Press
Finished on February 14, 2015
Rating: 3/5 (Good)




 Publisher’s Blurb:

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.

{spoiler removed}… the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together is destroyed, tumbling them into chaos. 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.

I first heard about Everything I Never Told You early in the holiday season last year when it was named Amazon’s #1 Best Book of 2014. It was also named a best book of the year by NPR, Huffington Post, Shelf Awareness and many others. This debut novel quickly became a popular pick in our store, not to mention with a lot of my blogging friends, so I was intrigued. I had hoped to read it before Christmas, in order to recommend it to shoppers, but I didn’t get to it until after the holidays. That turned out not to be a problem since word of mouth recommendations made it easy to convince readers to get a copy, which was probably a good thing in this case, since I didn’t love it. I read the book over the course of a week and while I certainly don’t have any complaints about the author’s writing ability, I simply didn’t care for the story. It’s a terribly sad story, but not because of the loss of a child (which we all know is the worst loss anyone should ever have to endure), but because of the underlying dysfunction within the Lee family. Marilyn and James’ disappointments in their individual lives become their children’s burdens to bear. The entire novel is filled with such loneliness and misunderstandings, that had it not been such a compelling story, I probably wouldn’t have finished. The mystery of Lydia’s death played a huge role in sustaining my interest, as did all the glowing reviews I read prior to picking up the book.

Final Thoughts:

Ng’s debut novel is well-written and completely absorbing, and yet I found it too sad to enjoy. Loneliness permeates the entire Lee family; each member a loner or virtually invisible to those around them. These misunderstood people, who really just might have felt loved if only they could communicate and share their true feelings, were lost in their own sad worlds. Good, but not great.

13 comments:

  1. I don't think I want to be depressed by reading at the moment, so not something I will be rushing out and reading.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Kailana, I don't think you're missing anything spectacular, although others may disagree.

      Delete
  2. I think it may be too sad for me at the moment, too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was sad in so many ways. I'd say you're better off finding something a little lighter.

      Delete
  3. I have this one on audio and have tried to listen to it twice. JoAnn loved it that way and so I wanted to give it a shot. Maybe I'll get back to it at some point. Right now, it just doesn't seem the right time. Glad to know that I'm not the only one that has been a bit underwhelmed. ;-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
    2. It was JoAnn's review that nudged me into reading it, Kay. I know she really liked it, but I found it a bit too bleak. I started to say that I wonder if the audio is better, but if you gave it two tries, I guess it isn't.

      Delete
  4. This was definitely one of most depressing books I've read in a long while, but I still loved it. My hope is that the Lee's sad story could be a cautionary tale for parents. From my review:

    "As you ask yourself how the Lees got it all so spectacularly wrong, you will be inspired to pay closer attention to your own family. You will be forced to re-examine the hopes and dreams you hold for your children, as well as your underlying motivation."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. JoAnn, I understand completely how you can love a depressing book. I felt that way about Still Alice and The Book Thief. Terribly sad and depressing, but amazing novels. Guess this one just didn't create that same feeling in me. I do agree, however, that it's an excellent example of parents expecting far too much from their children.

      Delete
  5. I enjoyed your review. I enjoyed this novel even though in the end it was indeed very sad.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Pat. I'm glad you had a good experience with the book, in spite of its sad nature.

      Delete
  6. I loved this, but yes a sad story. No review yet.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Diane, it certainly is one that a lot of people loved.

      Delete

I may not answer your comments in a timely fashion, but I always answer. Check back soon!