Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
Published in 2013 by Blackfriars
My copy: Kindle ebook
Lydia is the favourite child of Marilyn and James Lee; 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.
When Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, James is consumed by guilt and sets out on a reckless path that may destroy his marriage. Marilyn, devastated and vengeful, is determined to make someone accountable, no matter what the cost. Lydia’s older brother, Nathan, is convinced that local bad boy Jack is somehow involved. But it’s the youngest in the family – Hannah – who observes far more than anyone realises and who may be the only one who knows what really happened.
From the very start of this book you are totally sucked in – we find out straight away that a character called Lydia is dead, but the other characters in the book don’t yet know. Slowly the drama unfolds and we see the impact the death of Lydia has on her parents and siblings.
Told throughout by an omniscient narrator, we are privy to the thoughts and actions of every character in this dysfunctional family. The novel flits from character to character, and frequently steps back in time, but I didn’t find this confusing and it really added to the impact of the story. We find out about the childhood of Lydia’s parents, second-generation Chinese immigrant James Lee and his American wife Marilyn. We see how their experiences have coloured their lives and how they have inadvertently screwed up their children as a result. Despite their flaws and the ways they treat their children, I could really relate to James and Marilyn and I felt sympathy for them and could understand their actions – even while not always agreeing with them.
Don’t be fooled by the blurb on the cover of this book into thinking it’s a thriller or a whodunnit as it really isn’t. Instead it is a picture of a family that is utterly messed up without even realising it.
I really enjoyed reading this novel, which I think is very deserving of the praise it has received – including being the winner of Amazon’s Book of the Year award last year. It is haunting, sad and atmospheric, and overall a very good read.