It took me nearly 17 years but I finally did it. For the first time in my life, I finished an entire book in one night (picture books excluded). Even though part of my success may be attributed to procrastinating studying for a test, the intriguing plot and effortless writing in Celeste Ng’s Everything I Never Told You was what really made this book such a page turner.
On page one of Everything I Never Told You we find ourselves having breakfast with the Lees, a Chinese American family living in 1970s Ohio. Unfortunately, things don’t remain normal for long when the Lee family realizes that Lydia, the favorite child, has gone missing. To their horror, she’s found dead a couple days later at the bottom of a lake. The police believe the cause of her death is suicide but each family member has their own theory. With Lydia, the linchpin of the Lee family dead, the Lees collapse into a downward spiral and we witness their struggle as they try to understand what truly happened to Lydia.
What frames this book into such an irresistible read is that the driving question is how rather than why Lydia died. From the beginning of the book, we know Lydia drowned to death but we fail to comprehend why she supposedly killed herself. This unique mystery along with Ng’s seamless prose propels the storyline forward and compels you to race through the sentences, paragraphs, pages, chapters until you at last find the truth behind Lydia’s death in an agonizing yet unforgettable finish.
Not only is Everything I Never Told You an incredible mystery, but it also is a powerful tale regarding an interracial family. As the story unravels, you learn the secrets of all the Lee family members and how their past personal experiences and different cultures shaped them into the people they became. Since I come from a long line of Indians, I was never truly aware of the struggles that came along with being part of a multiracial family. Through Everything I Never Told You, I began to grasp just how complex it is when two distinct cultures coincide and the difficulty it takes to work around cultural differences. This novel also opened my eyes to the extent to which secrets can penetrate a family, making me realize that even though you may share the same roof with others, you could very well not even know them.
Book Review by Sarah Jacob