Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Julie's Review: Everything I Never Told You

Author: Celeste Ng
Series: None
Publication Date: June 26, 2014
Publisher: Penguin Press
Pages: 304
Obtained: from a friend
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Bottom Line: Interesting look at how family secrets effect each family member
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Library
Summary: Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet . . . So begins the story of this exquisite debut novel, about a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio. Lydia is the favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee; their middle daughter, a girl who inherited her mother’s bright blue eyes and her father’s jet-black hair. Her parents are determined that Lydia will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue—in Marilyn’s case that her daughter become a doctor rather than a homemaker, in James’s case that Lydia be popular at school, a girl with a busy social life and the center of every party. When Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together tumbles into chaos, forcing them to confront the long-kept secrets that have been slowly pulling them apart. James, consumed by guilt, sets out on a reckless path that may destroy his marriage. Marilyn, devastated and vengeful, is determined to find a responsible party, no matter what the cost. Lydia’s older brother, Nathan, is certain that the neighborhood bad boy Jack is somehow involved. But it’s the youngest of the family—Hannah—who observes far more than anyone realizes and who may be the only one who knows the truth about what happened. A profoundly moving story of family, history, and the meaning of home, Everything I Never Told You is both a gripping page-turner and a sensitive family portrait, exploring the divisions between cultures and the rifts within a family, and uncovering the ways in which mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, and husbands and wives struggle, all their lives, to understand one another.  

Review: Everything I Never Told You is a poignant family story about how the secrets we keep affect each of a family's members differently. How as parent's we some times can pin our hopes and dreams on our kids without knowing how it can effect them. For the Lee family and their children, being the only Chinese family in a small Ohio town has it's own issues.

Each of the family members in the Lee family has their own secrets, some more harmful than others. Marilyn hasn't been happy for years and the family has swept her disappearance years prior under the rug. Unfortunately, the fallout of her leaving and coming back have had long-term ripples that turn into tidal waves. Lydia is the favorite of the family. It is clear that she is the golden child. Marilyn has all her hopes and dreams pinned on her. James is the working father and husband who doesn't have a clue that something is wrong at home until it's too late. He's also the father who has no clue how to relate to his kids or help them to fit in, except in the most awkward way.

Marilyn has her own issues and a lot of them stem from her relationship with her mother. I don't think she married James to spite her mother but I don't think she had any clue about how difficult it would be for them with no one to help them work through it. She doesn't understand and won't until it's too late how her leaving the family left deep scars.

Hannah, Lydia and Nath all deal with their own issues with their relationships with each other and with their parents. Nath feels largely ignored or that his parents have no interest in what he's interested in. Hannah is the youngest and feels like she's on the outside looking in at her family.

It isn't until the later part of the book that we understand what Lydia was feeling and thinking. You can't help but feel sorry for her. Her parents can't see through their own goals for her to even ask if that's what she wants for her life. Marilyn is the epitome of a helicopter mom before that term was en vogue.

Everything I Never Told You will make you pause and think about how your parents shaped you and how you will shape your children. It is a book that makes you pause and think.



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