Celeste Ng || Everything I Never Told You

The world of the Lee’s collapses when daughter Lydia is found dead. Suicide as far as the police is concerned. Ng shows us how mother Marilyn, father James, brother Nath and sister Hannah react to Lydia’s death. She also looks back at the past looking for possible motives that explain why Lydia should have killed herself. Plenty of motives as it turns out. Lydia who has made herself out to be a successful teenager with friends and good grades to her parents, turns out to be a lonely girl with no friends and increasingly bad grades, especially for physics, the subject her mother relentlessly pushed her towards. Marilyn’s dream to become a doctor was frustrated by love and children, she now expects Lydia to step into her shoes and do what she could not: go to medical school and become a doctor. Marilyn unfortunately fails to see that Lydia is just no good at physics and mathematics and is only trying to please her mother. When Lydia was still young Marilyn left the family, on her return Lydia decided to do everything she could to keep her mother satisfied and at home, including lying about grades. Father James, who during his childhood felt excluded because of his Chinese background, as relentlessly pushed Lydia to be popular. Nath and Hannah both feel that they are the lesser loved siblings and try to make things work in their own way. Lydia’s death confronts the family with pain and sorrow. Ng describes how the family fails to cope with the pain as a family and is about to fall apart. Looking back at the past makes clear how difficult it has been to live and function as a mixed American-Chinese family in the US of the sixties and seventies. All family members are confronted one way or the other with discrimination; be it because your mother no longer talks to you, you are not given the job you were promised because a white man blends in better or because you are constantly being teased by your class mates for your strange eyes. The Lee’s know what it is to be different in a society that expects people to be alike. The Chinese aspect is what sets out Everything I Never Told You from other novels and movies on the subject of juvenile suicide. Though I enjoyed reading the novel, I did feel that I had read and seen it before. Ng’s caring and balanced style of writing is what sets her novel apart. It is not the most original novel on the subject, it is precious, beautifully and lovingly written.

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About booksandliliane

I am an avid reader and love to share my love for literature. I have my own opinion on books that have been shortlisted, laureated by critics or are pushed on us by bookstores. I will try and explain why I like or do not like a book. Hopefully influencing you in your choice of books to read.
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One Response to Celeste Ng || Everything I Never Told You

  1. curlygeek04 says:

    I just read this book too, and found it very moving. I agree that it was very balanced — this book could easily have been too emotional but it wasn’t, just very thoughtful.

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