My Thoughts About Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng (Book Review #96)

A family drama like no other. That’s my first thought after I read this book. I can’t explain the sensation that I felt after finishing the last page. I didn’t expect the book to turn out to be so deep and complex. I can’t remember reading any other book that gave so much emphasis on it’s character building. This book dig deeper to the core of the characters making the book so fascinating.

“What made something precious? Losing it and finding it.”
― Celeste Ng, Everything I Never Told You

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It’s character driven story line really worked well with it’s pacing. A couple of pages in, the pacing and style didn’t work for me causing me to be confused a lot of time asking myself where the story is heading. That’s also the reason why it took me some time to finish it because it kind of bored me at some part. But midway through the book, the pacing started to pick up and I couldn’t stop reading. That’s where I understood why it was made that way. That’s where I understood that this book is not just a simple contemporary family saga.

The book is about the mixed-race Lee family, living in the 1970 Ohio, United States. A mixed-race family is still uncommon in the United States during that time so there’s that for a briefer. They always find themselves always trying to fit in the norm. The book starts with “Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.”, giving the readers an intense start where the story took off. The book navigates through the past and present of the family allowing the readers to understand the cause and effect of the lost of the family’s beloved 16-year old daughter and sister. What follows next are pages of intricately detailed and weaved relationships touching complex topics that ranges from close family ties, infidelity, depression, pressure, racial identity to racism and sexism. Along the way, readers will get revelations and answers from the tiny little things that the author has scattered in the book.

“The things that go unsaid are often the things that eat at you–whether because you didn’t get to have your say, or because the other person never got to hear you and really wanted to.”
― Celeste Ng, Everything I Never Told You

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After Lydia was found dead at the bottom of the lake and not knowing if it’s murder or suicide, there’s Lydia’s parents, Caucasian Marilyn and Asian James, questioning what they did wrong. James, now working as a professor of history, who, as a boy always tried to fit in and that’s what he wanted her daughter to emulate. Marilyn, a physics major with dreams of attending medical school, who grew up being so obsessed with succeeding and when she saw her dreams failing, she passed the pressure to Lydia. From there you can now see how contrasting they are as parents. One who wants you to stand out and one who wants you to blend in. Middle-child Lydia became the center of attention of her parents. Then there’s also Lydia’s sibling, the Harvard-bound and geek, Nath and observant, Hannah, questioning if they have done enough as siblings. Left out and given with almost no attention by their parents, they resolved themselves to living in their own world and each looking for clues to answer the question about the death of their sister. When all seems to crumble and fell apart, there’s that question if will they be enough to keep the family united. There’s that question about if Lydia’s secrets that she didn’t tell anyone will be the thing that will cause her family to break apart or make them even more closer.

I can describe Ng’s writing as simple yet vivid and poignant at the same time (though it is something to get used to). Her beautiful writing can also be reflected on the way she created her sincere characters. They are just so realistic and I felt like they just live next door and I am a neighbor who knows all their secrets.

“Before that she hadn’t realized how fragile happiness was, how if you were careless, you could knock it over and shatter it.”
― Celeste Ng, Everything I Never Told You

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How she was able to tie the story and interconnect the scenes leading to the plot and eventually to the ending make this book a satisfying read. With an exquisitely done narration, the author was able to produce a gripping page turner with the right balance of family drama and exciting twists. Furthermore, her way of changing the point of view between each of the family adds more intensity to the story making it more compelling. The author was also able to tell a story intricately that there are times when you have to close the book and think about what you just read. This is just an emotionally-stirring read.

For a debut novel, Celeste Ng really did well. She was able to handle the issues raised on this book in a way that is insightful to the readers. I’ll definitely read whatever she writes next.

4 stars out of 5.

BOOK SPECIFICATIONS:

Author: Celeste Ng
Format: Hardbound
Source: Bought
Part of a Series: No
Release Year: June 2014
Publisher: Penguin Press
No. of Pages: 304 pages

About the Author

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Celeste Ng grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Shaker Heights, Ohio, in a family of scientists. Her fiction and essays have appeared in One Story, TriQuarterly, Bellevue Literary Review, and elsewhere, and she is a recipient of the Pushcart Prize. Currently, she lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with her husband and son. (Photo and About the Author courtesy of Amazon)

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5 thoughts on “My Thoughts About Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng (Book Review #96)

  1. Nice! Your book reviews are always making me want to buy more and more books! Great writing and I’m really excited to read more of your reviews. Can you recommend any good and affordable non-mall bookstores? Cheers!

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  2. It sounds like so much insight into a really short book. I like how it focuses on an Asian-American family in the ’70s. That combinations is so rare in literary fiction and even fiction in general. I’m really interested in the familial relationships in this book because from your description of it, I feel like I can relate to it, both the standing out and the fitting in. Need to get this one asap lol

    Like

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