Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

Everything I Never Told You

Incredible family story

Ng does a masterful job with characterization in
Everything I Never Told You.
She performs an autopsy on a family, dissecting each member in detail. Amazing job, and I found myself incredibly emotionally invested.

Admittedly this story touched me on a personal level, I am of a ‘mixed’ background so I could understand the challenges Marilyn, James, Nathan and Lydia dealt with, their anguish was very familiar. Referring to challenges I clearly understood the challenges and issues from all angles – person, parent, child. Ng addressed the racial issues in a realistic manner, the setting spanned from 1950’s when James and Marilyn married to the 1970’s the time of Lydia’s death.


“Marilyn realized, suddenly, what her mother was imagining. It was 1958; in Virginia, in half the country, their wedding would break the law.”

As I read this story my radar as a parent kicked in – forcing me to question
How well do I know my own son?
Obviously the Lee’s were clueless, instead they only saw and knew what suited them. There were so many unresolved issues in this family, Lydia’s death was the cusp of how troubled this family was, individually and collectively.


“But Mom, I don’t have any secrets. At the time Marilyn had laughed. What secrets could a daughter keep from her mother, anyway?”

Tragedy unites or divides. With the Lee’s it divided, issues resurfaced, the breakdown started spiraling out of control, verbal barbs were tossed like hand grenades. Words left unspoken, words misunderstood, each family member dealt with this tragedy alone, and it was agonizing to read. Communication all but ceased emotions ran high.

I felt for the children Nathan, Lydia and Hannah. You find they were caught in the eye of the storm of their parents. Nathan to be recognized but failing James’s expectations. Lydia the golden child of both parents, suffocated by both and Hannah basically treated as an afterthought when not completely ignored. Let’s not forget the parents – James, always feeling like the outcast, friendless, seeking acceptance but falling short. Marilyn, resentful, forcing her dreams on her children, unemotional. Yep, and we wonder why the children are unhappy and tormented inside emotionally and mentally.

This story depicts the battle to understand one another, to listen as opposed to hearing, to see what’s in front of you rather than what you imagine is in front of you, to think before you speak, to love before it’s too late, to address the past and let it go.

Essentially Everything I Never Told You
is about a family, a family attempting to be a family. Poignant, touching and captivating.

Published June 26th 2014 by The Penguin Press HC
Pages 304
ISBN13: 9781594205712

Reviewer: Melinda

Recommendation: 4/5

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