From the New York Times 2014 Notable Book List … Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng. Here’s the Amazon blurb:
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.
Of the books I have read on the New York Times list, this is at the top of the list. Maybe second behind All Our Names by Dinaw Mengestu. But no further down the list, but then, considering the competition so far in my reviews of the books on the list …
My interest in this story begins with the title. Everything I Never Told You. That is a title with meaning, with power. It is a title that promises something that is real and substantial. I’ll confess, however, that there was a point in the story where I felt it dragged. For a book that is only 300 pages long, I felt at that moment like I had been reading it for far too long.
What brought me back to being a fan of this story was how it ended and how I was able to relate to it. And maybe that’s the different between this story and the others from the list that I didn’t like. I could relate here. I couldn’t over there.
What happens in this story, and, no, this is not a spoiler, Lydia dies. We don’t know how or why. And as her family deals with her death, we flash back and we move forward and the different members of her family become narrators who share with the reader the things they knew, the things they felt, the things they had never told. It’s not just Lydia. It is her parents. It is her siblings. Even five-year-old Hannah, who sees more than anybody else.
It was an interesting read and, like I said, one I could relate to. We far too frequently fail to tell those we love what we are thinking and how we are feeling. We hold things back, we hide things. We don’t say things for fear of the reaction. We don’t listen when others speak because we are too focused on our view of ourselves and our own pain. This story … Everything I Never Told You … is an incredible depiction of the impact that reluctance can have on a family and the individual members that make up that family.