By: Julia Swee
Caution, this review contains *SPOILERS*
‘Everything I Never Told You’ is a fictional, deep hearted, literary thriller by the American writer who goes by the pen name of Celeste Ng. Within the book, Celeste includes intense imagery of heartache, as she narrates the lives of a five person Asian-American family growing up in the suburbs of Ohio. The story takes place in the year 1977, when society was much less accepting of diversity. This adds a very pragmatic sense of the racism that Asians encountered at the time.
As the story begins, Ng narrates the lives of each family member. The main character, a 15-year-old girl named Lydia, is immediately highlighted as the main subject of the story. From the very beginning of the novel, we are introduced to the fact that Lydia had died in the nearby lake where the family lived. Ng jumps back and forth on the timeline of the family, from when Lydia was alive, and after she died, as each different character’s point of view is set on display while they mourn over the loss of their family member.
As Ng narrates Lydia’s story, relevant information is included, such as her whereabouts, her connections, and her overall lifestyle before her death. As the book goes on, more and more pieces are connected that give us hints and clues as to what could’ve happened to Lydia, and what led to her the point of death.
Ng also narrates the lives of Lydia’s mother Marilyn, her father James, her elder brother Nathan, and her little sister Hannah. Ng uses the transitions between different perspectives from each character, and the varying timelines of each event, to allow the reader to connect the pieces of Lydia’s disappearance.
Celeste Ng uses this story to present an almost surreal look into the life of a modern family and the real life horrors that can severely impact the foundation of such. The way that Ng uses different perspectives to show the varying emotions that are caused by loss provides insight into the notion that life and death go hand and hand in the world. Celeste Ng does a beautiful job of setting the scene for a story that opens your eyes to the cold hard truth of the impacts that individualistic differences can have on youths.
As we learn more and more about Lydia’s life before death, and what led up to it, we are able to grasp and understand the inner workings of her family. Ng leads a heartfelt path to the final devastating conclusion of the novel, allowing the reader to grasp the notion that nothing is ever really what it seems.
Celeste Ng published a novel that drew a portrait of life, loss, family, heartbreak, and everything that comes with it. I recommend this book to fans of books that touch on deep family trauma and reconnection. The subject is touchy, and it is depressing, but it is not without hope at times, including the at end.