This is a Review: Everything I Never Told You, by Celeste NgAugust 28, 2015
I'm pretty sure that everyone and their pet cats have already reviewed this book, but, as some wise people once tweeted, you can spread book love months (or years!) after it comes out and there's so much to love (and discuss) here. So, without further ado, another glowing review of Everything I Never Told You.
The opening drops us right at the start of a normal day—that would turn out to be anything but—for the Lee family. Lydia is the "prize flower" of James and Marilyn's three children and, on that morning in May, she appears to be poised for success in advanced physics, her social circles and beyond. As Ng walks us through the days directly before and after Lydia drowns, we quickly learn that Lydia's—and everyone else's—veneer is not quite what it originally seems.
Rather than shifting narrators at chapter breaks, Ng moves through the minds of the Lee family within each scene. While this type of technique could end up being clunky or confusing elsewhere, it works beautifully to show us the many sides of the Lees' interactions with each other and the few people they know outside their family. In her review of Nekropolis, Amanda talked about how the multiple narrators allowed the reader to see how everyone "thinks they see and feel things the same way, when they really don’t." Ng works the same magic here, quietly pointing us toward what goes unspoken, misunderstood or willfully ignored.
This book sucked me right in and didn't let go, a fact I lamented after choosing to start it at midnight. It packs together a bunch of heavy themes: the stigma that once surrounded (and can still surround) interracial marriage, the weight of parental expectations, deep-seated loneliness and fear of abandonment are just a few. The message that ultimately comes through clearest, however, is what can go wrong when you fail to communicate and what can go so, so right when you do. A handful of (spoiler-y) moments in the story didn't quite ring true or were a bit too tidy for me, but all were minor blemishes on an otherwise exquisite piece of storytelling that I still cannot believe is Ng's debut. I eagerly await whatever she spins for us next.
Also, y'all should follow her on Twitter, if for nothing but the livestream of her four-year-old's excellent questions.
Yeah, I know y'all have already read this one. Let's gush. Or maybe not?! Anyone out there who really didn't dig it?