Title and Author: Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
Rating: 5 Michael Roths, with a side of Dessert Parfait.
Tl;dr (except you wr): In a small town in 1970s Ohio, Lydia, the daughter of a mixed Chinese-American family is found dead in a nearby lake. Lydia is the apple of her parents’ eyes, the favorite of the three Lee kids, and their apparent perfect family tree falls apart as the investigation begins. Everything I Never Told You dissects a multitude of trauma: immigrant, mixed, Asian, and uncertainty. The novel follows both the investigation of Lydia’s death by delving into the backstories of both her parents, revealing a complicated story of love, betrayal, and ultimately, understanding.
The Rating, explained: Had I read Little Fires Everywhere after this, perhaps this novel would have earned a full summies, one-swipe meal, however, I read Celeste Ng’s other masterpiece in December of 2017, loved it, cried a lot, so I had a lot of expectations. Nevertheless, this book was absolutely incredible; something that’s special about Ng’s writing is that she incorporates different subplots within the narrative, like romance and history, within the general mystery story. When I pick up Stephen King, in contrast, I know I’m getting into some sort of mystery/horror duo. Here, it’s much more realistic, letting us sit in the nuance of complicated family structures and how the combination of guilt and grief can tear apart the frayed threads of an already compromised perfect picture.
I identified with Lydia; I identified with James, her father; I identified with Marilyn, her mother; I identified in some way with each member of the Lee family in subtle ways that led me to feel inextricably tied to each of their lives. There were times I was physically angered by the plot, times where I wanted to throw the book out a window––but this emotional response kept me in my spot on the couch, ignoring the outside world as I turned each page, only wanting to find some sort of resolve. The thing that sucks about deeply realistic novels is that there isn’t always a resolution: just like my own life right now, things don’t end and begin in a clean cut; they’re ragged, confusing, in need of constant maintenance. The utter messiness of the Lee family grounded me in that aspect: while they seemed like a picturesque family, devastated by their loss in the first chapter, I quickly discovered the sensitivity of that portrait. How the strokes of this family are embedded with struggle and hurt, how that portrait would be entirely different without that struggle, without that hurt.
Amount of sleep voluntarily lost during the reading of this book: look, we all make choices in life…