Everything I Never Told You

Everything I Never Told You is a gorgeously tragic story of a flawed family, love with expectations, and the motivations behind our identity.

…their family had felt precarious, as if they were teetering on a cliff.
Before that she hadn’t realized how fragile happiness was, how if you were careless, you could knock it over and shatter it.

— Celeste Ng

Synopsis:

Set in small-town Ohio in the 1970s, Everything I Never Told You is a story of a Chinese American family struggling to understand each other and put the pieces of their lives back together after the tragic death of Lydia, Marilyn and James Lee’s favorite daughter. This is a story about expectations, unfulfilled dreams, and the deep hurts we cause each other when there’s an agenda behind our love.

She recognized it at once: love, one-way deep adoration that bounced off and did not bounce back; careful, quiet love that didn’t care and went on anyway.

— Celeste Ng

Review:

Oh, this book. This one destroys you – completely shatters your heart and leaves you aching. Aching for their naivety, aching for their selfishness, aching for their loneliness. This book makes you walk away to take a breath and settle your thoughts, then welcomes you back to tear you apart again. And oh, but I loved it.

Ng switches point-of-view mid-chapter from mother to father to one of their three children so gracefully, like a breeze you didn’t feel coming until you realize that something has already shifted. It creates a beautiful dance of narration that flows through their connected emotions, instead of following the polite rules of conversation where we each must take a turn and keep the order. There is no order in the way we feel emotions, nor in the way we affect each other in a family.

Setting this story in the 1970s was the most perfect choice to introduce these particular discordant themes – Chinese American race relations when Marilyn falls for and marries James, and their mixed race children that face discrimination as well; gender inequality in school, the workforce, and the family. While these are still issues today, those were pivotal years for sparking awareness and change and aided in the frustrations and disappointments felt in the story.

Everything I Never Told You is a powerful book that will stay with me for a long time. I can’t recommend this one enough!

Because more than anything, her mother had wanted to stand out;
because more than anything, her father had wanted to blend in.
Because those things had been impossible.

— Celeste Ng

Everything I Never Told You
by Celeste Ng
Paperback, 297 pages
Published May 12th 2015 by Penguin Books

Summary

Everything I Never Told You is the most gorgeously tragic story of a flawed family, conditional love, and the motivations behind our identity. Read this book. Feel its power and anguish. Shift your expectations.

— Cassie
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