Book Review: Everything I Never Told You

“He pushed her in. And then he pulled her out. All her life, Lydia would remember one thing. All his life, Nath would remember another.”

And that’s the crux of what I loved about this book –  the differences in the character’s perspectives and how it drove the story. Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng is about The Lees, a racially blended family of five living in small town Ohio. The second child, Lydia, ia the undisputed favorite of her parents and this book is about what happens to her, events that influenced it , and its effect on the family as a whole and as individuals.

Although the dynamics between each and all of the family members is fascinating , it’s Lydia’s viewpoint that is the most mysterious and, to me, less fleshed out. That’s not a criticism though, because it added to the intrigue of the story. The reader is seldom aware of exactly what Lydia thinks until well into the book. The relationship with her parents and her brother are the driving forces in her life. She is always on alert trying to please her parents and her brother is her safe place, the one person who comforts her even as he recognizes his place as a distant second best in the family.

The mother places her lost dreams and hopes squarely on Lydia’s shoulders and the father pushes his  introverted daughter socially in a blind effort to keep her from being perceived as “different” due to her mixed race. The book explores the parent’s past, how they met and married, which gives the reader insight into how it all relates back to Lydia and their laser focus on her.

The brother, Nath, is comrade in arms although they talk around the issues with their parents instead of really confiding in each other. This is a cause for events that change their relationship and a catalyst for the dramatic act that the book revolves around.

There is a third child, a younger girl who, as befits her place in the family, stays pretty much out of the way but ends up being a big part of the finale of the story.

Eventually, the tight box of the household is ripped open and the result is as messy and imperfect as it tried to be solid. The story of this family reinforces the fact that one can never really know another person or the how and the why of  the  life events that shaped. them. This well-written book illustrates just how complicated humans can be and that what you see is not always what really is. Everything I Never Told You is one of the best books I’ve read in a long while.

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