I just finished Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng. It has been getting incredible reviews and I had shied away from it, but bought it not too long ago. I read it in a day. And my reaction is – wow. It was an amazing book.
The book is set in small college town 1970s Ohio. Lydia Lee is dead. We know that pretty much from the beginning. She is half Chinese and half white. He father is a Chinese-American college professor and her mother is a Barnard student who married her father after briefly being his student. Her mother wanted to go to medical school and become a doctor but she gave that up when she got pregnant and got married. The father is offered a position as a professor in Ohio and they move there. They end up with three kids. Nathan, Lydia and Hannah. Lydia is the parents’ favorite and they make no effort to hide it.
I don’t want to say much about the plot because there are things that happen that are best left to the reader. I will say that it’s a look at a complicated family with a complicated story. Things are not as they seem for almost everyone. The book explores may themes. Perception, stereotypes, birth order, sexuality, depression, appearances. Ms. Ng deftly wades into this territory and provides an intimate look at a family trying to find its way after the anchor is cut loose. In many ways the family revolved around Lydia and when she dies, they become unmoored – from each other, from their community, from their lives. The biggest question to be answered in this story is whether the family can be put back together.
I loved this book. I loved the language, the description. I loved how she was able to capture each person’s emotions and to make each member of the family a distinct character with a distinct voice. The book was moving and emotional, but not sappy. One of the best books I have read in a long time. I highly recommend it.