Wednesday, January 28, 2015
Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
Everything I Never Told You
by Celeste Ng
narrated by Cassandra Campbell
Blackstone Audio, 2014
10 hours and 1minute
Summary (from goodreads):
Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet . . . So begins this debut novel about a mixed-race family living in 1970s Ohio and the tragedy that will either be their undoing or their salvation. 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.
When Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together tumbles into chaos, forcing them to confront the long-kept secrets that have been slowly pulling them apart.
In a year rife with outstanding debut novels, Everything I Never Told You stands out as one of the finest.
The sad lack of communication and understanding within the mixed-race Lee family is at the heart of this novel. Marilyn and James Lee, both misfits themselves, do not understand their children. They don't really understand each other either. The three children, Nath, Lydia, and Hannah, don't understand their parents enough to make sense of their actions, demands, and expectations. Lydia and Nath, though close, are too focused on their own lives and coping mechanisms to offer the other much support. And poor Hannah, the youngest, who sees and understands more than anyone realizes, is practically a nonentity to the rest of the family.
The novel opens with the stark statement that Lydia is dead. From there, it moves backward and forward through time, forcing the reader to pay close attention, but rewarding the effort with a gradual revelation of character, motivation, and, ultimately, circumstances surrounding Lydia's death.
Set in Ohio in the 70's, I loved the cultural references - the television shows, the fashions, and the ubiquitous Farrah Fawcett hair. But be forewarned, this is a sad book. Perhaps it wasn't the best listening choice for wrapping Christmas presents or my bouts of pre-holiday insomnia, but it is still brilliant. Book clubs will have a field day discussing these characters.
Everything I Never Told You should be required reading for anyone with children. As you ask yourself how the Lees got it all so spectacularly wrong, you will be inspired to pay closer attention to your own family. You will be forced to re-examine the hopes and dreams you hold for your children, as well as your underlying motivation.
A note on the audio production:
I chose to listen to this book because it is narrated by Cassandra Campbell. As always, she delivers an amazing performance. For me, an outstanding narrator can sometimes carry an average novel and it is often hard to judge how I might react to the book in print. However, I am certain I would have loved Everything I Never Told You in any format.
Do not miss this book!