Book Club: Everything I Never Told You

Everything I never Told You by Celeste Ng

I really loved Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng and wrote a rave review of it earlier this year. I knew I wanted to get into Ng's debut novel as it centered on an Asian American Hapa family and as a person who is Asian-American with hapa family members, I thought this would be an incredibly interesting work to read. 

goodreads synopsis

Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.

So begins this exquisite novel about a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio. Lydia is the favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee, and her parents are determined that she will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue. But when Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together is destroyed, tumbling them into chaos. 

A profoundly moving story of family, secrets, and longing, Everything I Never Told You is both a gripping page-turner and a sensitive family portrait, uncovering the ways in which mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, and husbands and wives struggle, all their lives, to understand one another.



My Review

"Lydia is dead. But they don't know it yet." And when the Lee family finds out that their middle child has drowned in the middle of the lake, it sets the family dynamic into chaos and tensions that were there before her death come to the surface. 

All James, the child of Chinese immigrants, wanted to do was fit in. All Marilyn, the white daughter of a homemaker, wanted to do was be exceptional. The two get married just before Loving v. Virginia is passed and have three children - Nath, Lydia, and Hannah. Nath is academically gifted, like his father, but also a social outcast due to his race and mixed heritage, also like his father. James sees all of the things he hates about himself in his son and subconsciously bullies him. James and Marilyn put all their hopes and dreams onto Lydia who they don't realize is buckling under their pressure. James believes her to be a popular kid in school, but she is an outcast like her brother. Marilyn believes that Lydia wants to be a doctor like she did but was unable to, but Lydia is failing her math and science classes. Hannah, the youngest, is completely ignored by the rest of the family. 

Before that she hadn’t realized how fragile happiness was, how if you were careless, you could knock it over and shatter it.”
— Little Fires Everywhere

I've never read a book about a family dynamic quite like this. A lot of the themes that came up in the book sounded incredibly familiar to me but I never had the right words to express them now. Ng manages to capture a snapshot of a family's history in a way that's subtle but incredibly compelling and very real. 

I highly recommend this book! If you've ever experienced moments of family dysfunction, this is a book for you.