Everything I Never Told You, Celeste Ng's excellent first novel about family, love and ambition, opens with a death ...can't help but feel a little like a mystery, and the pages that follow do reveal, gradually, the cause of Lydia's death. At its core, though, Ng's book is a conventional, domestically centered novel about an American family ...despite the Lees' interracial status, issues of ethnic and cultural identity are largely secondary to Ng's main ambition here: probing the emotional wounds that have scarred the family ...Ng's portrait of the relationship between Lydia and Marilyn, especially, feels true and fully realized. It's also heart-wrenching ... an engaging work that casts a powerful light on the secrets that have kept an American family together — and that finally end up tearing it apart.
What this novel concerns itself with is both the back story, showing us how this tragedy came about, and the aftermath, as Lydia’s parents, brother, and sister try to move on ...Ng starts with the family’s history, laying the groundwork for Lydia’s death. She then moves seamlessly into the weeks beyond, excelling in her sensitive and detailed portraits of grief... From the beginning, we are made to feel the tension in the Lee household, and the triggering crisis arrives with a kind of enervating inevitability ... What we don’t see, until it is too late, is the toll this sacrifice demanded ...a beautifully crafted study of dysfunction and grief. Yes, it may miss a few notes, but the ones it does play will resonate with anyone who has ever had a family drama, never mind a gift.
In her first published novel, Celeste Ng peels back the layers of a grieving family reeling from the loss of their teenage daughter ...both a narrative of a family's attempt to cope with loss, and a mystery. The body of the Lees' middle daughter, Lydia, was found in a lake, and it is unclear if her death was an accident or a suicide. Ng divides the chapters between past and present ... Although bright, Lydia was not the potential Rhodes scholar that Marilyn wanted her to be ... From here, Ng shows the familiar spiral of teenage failure slipping into lassitude and apathy ... It is to Ng's credit that it is sometimes difficult for the reader to keep going; the pain and unhappiness is palpable. But it is true to the Lees, and Ng tells all.
We learn in the very first two sentences of Everything I Never Told You that 'Lydia is dead. But they don't know this yet.' However, in this beautiful and poignant story, hope becomes as much a character as any person in the Lee family ... The ironic, heartbreaking but perhaps inevitable flaw of this family is that its members can't tell each other what they really want and need. For the Lees, the usual family dynamics are also overlaid with problems of race ... She tackles the themes of family dynamics, gender and racial stereotyping, and the weight of expectations, all with insight made more powerful through understatement ...has an exact, sophisticated touch with her prose. The sentences are straightforward. She evokes emotions through devastatingly detailed observations, not with lazy adjectives.
Celeste Ng’s powerful debut novel, Everything I Never Told You, begins like a detective novel: 'Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.' ... As the story unfolds, Ng reveals with nuance the varied reactions of Lydia’s survivors... Ng’s portrait of the mother is particularly adept. Marilyn feels thwarted by the sexism of the time; she wanted to be a doctor but chose marriage and child-rearing instead, a decision that has left her embittered ... The reader sees how the pressures on Lydia mounted into nearly unbearable proportions... While Ng expertly creates suspense as the anguished Lee family tries to figure out who or what has killed Lydia, this is not a detective novel...is at heart the beautifully crafted story of a family in pain, and the many reasons, personal and societal, that the Lees have lived most of their lives as strangers to one another.
Everything I Never Told You starts, as now seems to be statutory for almost all crime stories on page and screen, with a sudden disappearance...book opens in 1977, with chapters taking place in that year alternating with sections set in the mid 60s, when a previous crisis – also involving a missing person – struck the Lee family... The story-driving decisions made by the characters, meanwhile, are almost all driven by overt racism of the sort that mixed-race families would have faced then rather than the covert and coded bigotry... Ng brilliantly depicts the destruction that parents can inflict on their children and on each other ... Some crime devotees may find the novel short on twists and deaths; Ng is most impressive in the less generic novelistic skill of the piercing detail.
...when a novel as good as Celeste Ng's debut, Everything I Never Told You, comes along and explores the intricacies and history of a family in crisis, you just might find yourself thinking about the complexities of family in a new way ... Ng writes perceptively and honestly about the love James and Marilyn share, as well as Marilyn's very real trepidations about being involved with an 'Oriental' man... Each member of the family struggles with a secret he or she is unable to share with the others... As Lydia's fate becomes painfully clear to all of them, Ng's narrative travels back to the early days of her parents' courtship, as well as to a period when Marilyn herself disappeared for a time ...Ng shows us how a family so desperately wanting to avoid hurting each other actually end up suffering terribly as a result.
When 16-year-old Lydia Lee fails to show up at breakfast one spring morning in 1977, and her body is later dragged from the lake in the Ohio college town where she and her biracial family don't quite fit in, her parents...older brother and younger sister get swept into the churning emotional conflicts and currents they've long sought to evade ... The surprising answers lie deep beneath the surface, and Ng, whose stories have won awards including the Pushcart Prize, keeps an admirable grip on the narrative's many strands as she expertly explores and exposes the Lee family's secrets... These long-hidden, quietly explosive truths, weighted by issues of race and gender, slowly bubble to the surface of Ng's sensitive, absorbing novel and reverberate long after its final page ...emotionally complex debut novel sucks you in like a strong current and holds you fast until its final secrets surface.
This emotionally involving debut novel explores themes of belonging using the story of the death of a teenage girl, Lydia, from a mixed-race family in 1970s Ohio ... Marilyn and James meet in 1957, when she is a premed at Radcliffe and he, a graduate student, is teaching one of her classes. The two fall in love and marry, over the objections of Marilyn’s mother, whose comment on their interracial relationship is succinct... When Lydia is discovered dead in a nearby lake, the family begins to fall apart ... Lydia is remarkably imagined, her unhappy teenage life crafted without an ounce of cliché. Ng’s prose is precise and sensitive, her characters richly drawn.