Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

There was a time in my life when I could sit down with a book and not get up again until I’d finished it. I’m not in that season of my life anymore and I’m okay with that most of the time. But while I was reading Everything I never Told You, I wished that I could time travel and be that person again. THIS was the perfect antidote to book that I recently blogged about, Swing Time.

“Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet. 1977, May 3, six thirty in the morning, no one knows anything but this innocuous fact: Lydia is late for breakfast.”

These are the opening lines of the novel that sucked me in and wouldn’t let me go.  Ng tackled themes of racial identity, gender identity, sexuality, and what it means to be a parent in such an engaging way. The omniscient narrator gave us little peaks of the future as we went along, as evidenced even by the first few lines. Nothing is really a secret to the reader as the characters’ secrets are laid bare before us. It was an incredibly effective style. Ng’s writing was full of metaphors that caused me to pause and wonder at the beautiful images that she created.

Lydia is a bi-racial child growing in up Ohio. Her father, James, is Chinese-American and teaches American Studies at the local university. Her mother, Marilyn, is a white woman who grew up in Virginia and dreamed of becoming a doctor; her dreams were derailed when she met James and became pregnant. Lydia is seemingly the perfect child and following in her mother’s incomplete footsteps by excelling in math and science and is quickly on her way to becoming a doctor. Although the middle child, she is the obviously favored one. Her older brother, Nath, and younger sister, Hannah, are often afterthoughts and pale in comparison to their parents.

But everyone in this family has secrets, just like every family across the world. The parents who thought they knew their child so well quickly learn that they didn’t know her at all. As they search for her right after her disappearance and then mourn for her for the rest of their lives, all of their truths come spilling out.

Even given the tragic topic, this was not a sad or depressing book. It wasn’t a happy book by any means, but I felt hopeful after reading it. I was hopeful about humanity’s ability to heal each other and love through the most difficult circumstances. Even though this family is full of flaws, every day is a new day to get things right.


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