I purchased Celeste Ng’s Everything I Never Told You a while ago and finally had the time to hunker down and cross it off my TBR (to be read list). What do you when there is a death in the family? What do you do when you’re a part of a multicultural family that’s chosen to be “color blind” instead of talking about cultural differences? In all honesty, I don’t know what I was expecting from this novel when I picked it up in the store, or even after I had read the description but I can say that it was one that made me think, one I could relate to and one that made me want to read more of Ng’s work.
Celeste Ng. Photo courtesy of CelesteNg.com
Everything is about a family of five that suddenly becomes a family of four, the Lee’s. A Chinese American father, a Caucasian American mother, and three children. The story begins after the death of their middle child, Lydia, who was quite obviously the favorite of the three. Lydia’s death forces everyone in the family to realize that they don’t really know each other and for parents, that can be a scary thing. Lydia is dead and no one knows why.
We go through the minds of each of the family members, we see past and present, how they related with Lydia, how they truly felt about her, the resentment, the loneliness. We see how one person’s ignorance can lead to another’s heartbreak, as mother Marilyn Lee, uses a racial image against her husband James. Grief makes everyone act in ways they wouldn’t normally and Everything takes it to the extreme, or perhaps Ng just uses it to bring out the true feelings of the characters. We see that Nath, the eldest, can’t wait to go to college because no one at home listens to him. But at least that is better than they treat their youngest, Hannah. Sometime, Marilyn even forgets to set out a plate for her. The Lee household revolved around Lydia, James and Marilyn forced it to be that way but what happens to a solar system when the sun disappears? This novel was so telling and so honest that if she had published it as a memoir, I might’ve believed it.
I didn’t like most of the character’s choices but that is what made it realistic. People are messy. Ng does a great job of evoking emotion as well as illustrating dysfunction and miscommunication. As the title states, this novel is about all the important things that we, as humans, keep locked away inside. The things we choose to hide are, in fact, the very pieces and parts that make us who we are. The depth, truth and cultural awareness that this work brings to the forefront really made it worth it. I love reading stories about cultural identity, understanding and similar topics.
I picked this book up for two reasons, everyone was talking about Ng and the cover was gorgeous. If I had to summarize my experience with it it would be this: it’s not my usual read but I enjoyed it.
All in all, I give it a 5/5 Stars.
Have you read any of Ng’s work? If so, let me know what it was and how you liked it in the comments below. And if you think there is something I should put on my TBR, I am all ears. Lastly, make sure to subscribe to this blog and follow me on Instagram @Chyina_Powell.
*Photo courtesy of CelesteNg.com