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Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
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Everything I Never Told You (original 2014; edition 2015)

by Celeste Ng (Author)

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4,8253201,755 (3.89)206
"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"--… (more)
Member:janinesherman
Title:Everything I Never Told You
Authors:Celeste Ng (Author)
Info:Penguin Books (2015), Edition: Reprint, 297 pages
Collections:Your library
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Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng (2014)

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» See also 206 mentions

English (317)  Piratical (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (319)
Showing 1-5 of 317 (next | show all)
unlikeable parents can sometimes make unlikeable children ( )
  rosies | Nov 19, 2021 |
An Unexpected Death in an Unexpected Manner

In Celeste Ng’s 2014 debut novel, she proves herself a truly compassionate and empathic observer of human tragedy. Everyone with children young or grown, everyone in a relationship, everyone who has lost someone dear inexplicably, all will identify with the Lee family, and perhaps even have their worst fears stirred up by Ng’s novel, that’s how true it rings. Too, reader’s will find the added pressure of racism haunting the lives of the characters, as it does the lives of many Americans.

The Lee family, professor father James Lee, wannabe doctor wife Marilyn, anxious driven son Nath, lonesome pushed daughter Lydia, and often overlooked youngest Hanna, live in a small college town. James teaches American history at the college, a specialty both a bit tongue in cheek and aspirational, the cowboy. Nath, graduating high school, has his sights set on Harvard (James graduated from there) and outer space. Lydia, unlike Nath, can’t be her own person because Marilyn is molding her to fit into her own long gone aspiration. Hanna, the last born, too young to be a sisterly companion to Lydia, seems overlooked, as her parents focus on her older siblings. When the novel opens, Lydia has been missing and the family is frantic to find her. Unbeknownst to them is her fate, revealed in the very first sentence: “Lydia is dead.”

But why would a young woman who seemed to be successful in school, both academically and socially, take her own life? And did she really kill herself, or did she die at the hands of a nefarious person, as Marilyn insists? Readers will discover that in an ironic way, Marilyn may have been right. Yet, Marilyn, nor anyone else in the Lee family, will get the closure readers will, and that is one aspect of the novel that makes it so unsettling: never knowing why your daughter did what she did.

Ng skillfully peels an onion here, revealing the histories of James, Marilyn, Nath, Lydia, and Hanna slowly, casting back and looking forward, so that in the end we fully understand the relationship of one person to the other.

Like much in life, at a distance the Lee family strikes observers as ideal. Yet, as readers learn, James struggled with race his entire life, successful, yes, but not nearly as successful as he might have been, and always trying to keep a low profile, to blend in.

If it’s true opposites attract, then at their cores, James and Marilyn are like the opposing poles of a magnet. She wants to break the mold, still a very tight one in the 1970s, the time of the novel, and become a doctor, to do big things. She nearly does, until she falls in love with James and children follow.

Lydia, then, bears the brunt of Marilyn’s thwarted ambition, as well as her father’s craving for acceptance in a white world, and these crush her. Nath, less subject to Marilyn’s desire, but in conflict with James, finds escape in physics and the stars and pursues his ambition relentlessly, as much to fulfill it as to escape home. And Hanna is left to wonder where she fits in.

All the Lees have secrets they hold close to themselves, and in the case of Lydia, all the way to the end of her short life. It adds up to a real, modern American tragedy.
( )
  write-review | Nov 4, 2021 |
An Unexpected Death in an Unexpected Manner

In Celeste Ng’s 2014 debut novel, she proves herself a truly compassionate and empathic observer of human tragedy. Everyone with children young or grown, everyone in a relationship, everyone who has lost someone dear inexplicably, all will identify with the Lee family, and perhaps even have their worst fears stirred up by Ng’s novel, that’s how true it rings. Too, reader’s will find the added pressure of racism haunting the lives of the characters, as it does the lives of many Americans.

The Lee family, professor father James Lee, wannabe doctor wife Marilyn, anxious driven son Nath, lonesome pushed daughter Lydia, and often overlooked youngest Hanna, live in a small college town. James teaches American history at the college, a specialty both a bit tongue in cheek and aspirational, the cowboy. Nath, graduating high school, has his sights set on Harvard (James graduated from there) and outer space. Lydia, unlike Nath, can’t be her own person because Marilyn is molding her to fit into her own long gone aspiration. Hanna, the last born, too young to be a sisterly companion to Lydia, seems overlooked, as her parents focus on her older siblings. When the novel opens, Lydia has been missing and the family is frantic to find her. Unbeknownst to them is her fate, revealed in the very first sentence: “Lydia is dead.”

But why would a young woman who seemed to be successful in school, both academically and socially, take her own life? And did she really kill herself, or did she die at the hands of a nefarious person, as Marilyn insists? Readers will discover that in an ironic way, Marilyn may have been right. Yet, Marilyn, nor anyone else in the Lee family, will get the closure readers will, and that is one aspect of the novel that makes it so unsettling: never knowing why your daughter did what she did.

Ng skillfully peels an onion here, revealing the histories of James, Marilyn, Nath, Lydia, and Hanna slowly, casting back and looking forward, so that in the end we fully understand the relationship of one person to the other.

Like much in life, at a distance the Lee family strikes observers as ideal. Yet, as readers learn, James struggled with race his entire life, successful, yes, but not nearly as successful as he might have been, and always trying to keep a low profile, to blend in.

If it’s true opposites attract, then at their cores, James and Marilyn are like the opposing poles of a magnet. She wants to break the mold, still a very tight one in the 1970s, the time of the novel, and become a doctor, to do big things. She nearly does, until she falls in love with James and children follow.

Lydia, then, bears the brunt of Marilyn’s thwarted ambition, as well as her father’s craving for acceptance in a white world, and these crush her. Nath, less subject to Marilyn’s desire, but in conflict with James, finds escape in physics and the stars and pursues his ambition relentlessly, as much to fulfill it as to escape home. And Hanna is left to wonder where she fits in.

All the Lees have secrets they hold close to themselves, and in the case of Lydia, all the way to the end of her short life. It adds up to a real, modern American tragedy.
( )
  write-review | Nov 4, 2021 |
Tender, careful, tense, and tragic. ( )
  misslevel | Sep 22, 2021 |
Well written. Detailed emotional and psychological motions of a mixed parent's family in an era where such unity is still unheard of and many will view them with distaste, even abhor such marriage. Their struggle of being accepted and chasing a dream have been passed on to their kids which will slowly but surely part them instead. These traits are normal particularly in Asian families. I truly empathise with Nathan, Lydia and Hannah. A book with lots of religion and human values to ponder on. ( )
  Sholee | Sep 9, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 317 (next | show all)
“Everything I Never Told You” is a beautifully crafted study of dysfunction and grief. Yes, it may miss a few notes, but the ones it does play will resonate with anyone who has ever had a family drama, never mind a gift.
added by ozzer | editBoston Globe, Clea Simon (Jul 1, 2014)
 
Everything I Never Told You," Celeste Ng's excellent first novel about family, love and ambition, opens with a death.....In the end, Ng deftly pulls together the strands of this complex, multigenerational novel. "Everything I Never Told You" is an engaging work that casts a powerful light on the secrets that have kept an American family together — and that finally end up tearing it apart.
 
Celeste Ng recounts this tragically sad story with sympathy and style and, in its denouement, a real sense of redemption.
 

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ng, Celesteprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Campbell, CassandraNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jakobeit, BrigitteÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Peterzon-Kotte, SaskiaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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for my family
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Lydia is dead.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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"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"--

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The daughter of a Chinese American family is found dead, turning the family's lives upside down.
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