Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

everything never toldEverything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
Published: June 26, 2014
Publisher: Penguin Press
Genre: Fiction
Edition: Kindle, 297 pages
ISBN: 159420571X
Source: Library

Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet . . .

So begins the story of this exquisite debut novel, about a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio. Lydia is the favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee; their middle daughter, 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, a girl with a busy social life and the center of every party.

Read more here ⇒

(Synopsis via Celeste Ng’s website; image via Goodreads)


What made something precious? Losing it and finding it. All those times he’d pretended to lose her. ~ Celeste Ng, Everything I Never Told You

Celeste Ng’s debut novel, Everything I Never Told You, is not a feel-good story or one to make you smile. The story line is ripe with regrets, disappointments, darkness, sadness, grief, and loss.

Ng establishes right away her central characters: James, Chinese and Marilyn, American couple with three children: Nathan, Lydia, and Hannah. James and Marilyn have expectations for their children. Expectations it seems to live out the hopes and dreams James and Marilyn never realized.

The story line centers around Lydia’s death and the family’s various ways of coping with her disappearance and loss. Yet, Ng has written a more complex story than this–a complex story of interracial marriage, racial tensions, disappointment, regret, hope, and a faltering family dynamic. Not to mention each family member’s individual demons.

Recommendation, red

Celeste Ng’s Everything I Never Told You is dark, mysterious, complex, sad. Yet, there is a lesson to be learned here if you can find your way through all its twists and turns and the darkness. Ng’s writing style kept me reading. She has a gift for developing plot, characters, and creating story arc that keeps her reader turning the pages. If you are reminiscent of the 1970s or want to experience them as they were, pick up a copy of Everything I Never Told You.
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7 thoughts on “Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

  1. Thanks, Sherrey — I’m thinking about reading this (even though, at the moment, the only fiction I’m usually reading is one book / month with my book group). Question: by “dark” do you mean depressing? Is there a glimmer of redemption, of faith in grace to resolve and heal our dysfunctions? I don’t want to read anything right now that will leave me too low….

    Thanks again for sharing your insights. I feel I can trust you recommendations and insights.


  2. Tracy, I sensed the darkness in the parents who could not let up on the missing daughter and perhaps drove her too hard. The third and youngest child, Hannah, is a bright spot and seems to understand much more than anyone else in the story. In her, I found hope–the possibility of the family circle’s history being broken for the better in years to come. My own personal interpretation, of course, and I think that’s what you wanted.

    I think once the theme hits home the darkness dissipates. If I tell you the theme, however, I’ll ruin it for you. Maybe save this until you feel you can handle a tiny bit of depressing story line.


  3. I keep hearing and reading great things about that book. I should really make some time to read it in the future, considering that in a few ways it seems to relate to my personal life. (Not married, but am in an interracial relationship, and one day I hope that I might have a child who’s half European and half Chinese )


    1. I believe this book sets a good standard in that it shows how NOT to raise children in an interracial/mixed marriage. I believe if you read it you will see what I mean. And I believe I see beautiful children in your future!


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