Title: Everything I Never Told You Author: Celeste Ng Published: June 26th 2014 by Penguin Press Format: Hardcover, 297 pages Genre: Fiction
How could you not continue reading a book that begins: “Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.” These nine words open up so much possibility and intrigue.
There is strangeness to the Lee family. A family with no friends that is made up of misfits. It is 1977 and a mixed race family is still looked upon as an oddity in Ohio. James, the father, is Chinese and Marilyn the mother, is a blonde haired blue eyed Caucasian. Lydia their golden child has characteristic of each, with her father’s black hair and almond shaped eyes the same color blue as her mother.
Though in the same house, the Lee’s do not know each other. They each live their own separate individual lives. When sixteen-year-old Lydia is found dead, each are trying to come to terms with what they knew and what they did not. Nath, the brother of Lydia, believes it is the boy across the street, but since Nath is “that Oriental boy”, the police will not take him seriously. Hannah, the youngest, misses her sister desperately and is left to pick up the pieces of her family all the while trying to remain invisible. They are each trying to come to terms with the police saying “suicide likely possibility.”
The Lee family is damaged. A marriage that was condemned from the start by Marilyn’s mother. The wound that was opened when Marilyn took time away from her husband and children with no forewarning and realizing that her dreams were never going to play out. A time when James was made to feel that it was a matter of time before a wife like Marilyn left a husband like him. Old fears lying coiled.
Nath gives up wanting to be seen, his acceptance to Harvard was barely a blip on the Lee family radar and Hannah realizes that she has never been seen. She is the quiet one that hides under tables and tries to use all of her inner strength to hold her family together but still she is invisible. The child that when she was born, her crib was placed in the attic where all the other unwanted things went.
Lydia knew that her parents loved her, I their own way, but their dreams were too heavy a burden. She knew that they favored her over Nath but she loved him and felt tethered to him. As long at Nath did not let go of her, she could absorb her parent’s dreams.
The Lee’s world orbited around Lydia and now with her gone, they must come to terms with all the missing parts in their lives. Unfulfilled dreams, embarrassments, seeing their own faults in their children. Children finally voicing their disappointments in their parents.
Sometimes our wishes and dreams are too much for our children. We do not see the stress and worry when they do not live up to our expectations. With Lydia now gone, Marilyn is left with her empty place. She had put her dreams away until she could unwrap them for her daughter. The place that her daughter can no longer fill, the place her husband no longer wants to be. Now that there is room, will invisible Hannah finally be seen? Will she finally have a place in her mother’s heart?
There is a twist near the end, one that was hinted at prior, but still it was surprising. This book hits on many issues and it was just one more thing that Lydia has been confronted with.
The very end, when all the puzzle pieces are put into place was emotional. The reader learns the truth and at the same time, there is so much more. This book is disturbing on so many levels and knowing everyone’s truth does not make it any easier. Everyone wants to blame their shortcomings on everyone else, but in the end, each had to make their own choices and live their own lives. Unfortunately, this truth came too late for Lydia.