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
source: purchased

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.

My thoughts:

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.

Bottom line: 
Do not miss this book!

My rating:

48 comments:

  1. Okay. Now I have to add this one to my list too. A member from my boo club was raving about it but she raves about a lot of books so I wasn't sure it was all that great.

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    1. Ti - I do think you would like this book... hope you get a chance to read it!

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  2. Ditto everything you said, but I believe your review may be better than my own. I listened to the audio too, and also felt Cassandra did a fabulous job. My book club is reading for Feb, but I've got a conflict so I'll be missing it. Drat!!

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    1. Anita - Oh, too bad you'll miss that meeting! Cassandra Campbell is one of my favorite narrators - she always adds to my enjoyment of a book.

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  3. I adore Cassandra Campbell's narration. While this book sounds a little sadder than I usually read it does sound fantastic and beautiful. If I can get this is in audio form I definitely will. Though I definitely won't chose this one to listen to while wrapping presents! Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Katherine - LOL, no don't listen while getting ready for Christmas! I do think this is one of those books where you do need to choose the right time though...

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  4. Happily, I have this one in my Audible library. Plan on listening to it soon. I've heard good things about it and your review makes me want to work it in soon.

    And I want to be part of Ti's "boo" club. Ti, do you meet only in October?? LOL

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    1. Kay - I can't wait to hear your opinion! This book will certainly give you a lot to think about.

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  5. I just picked this one up from the library. I'm so glad to hear that you loved it!

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    1. Melissa - Hope you like it, too. I'm sure I would have loved it just as much in print.

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  6. I've been seeing it but really had no idea what it was about. Sounds fascinating!

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    1. Andi - You need to read this one... so, so good!

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  7. I love how you pay such great attention to the narrators...I definitely agree that a great narrator can enhance a so-so book. There are even certain books, like Alan Bradley's, that are great in themselves but even better in my view because of who reads them to us.

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    1. Audrey - Now I will be sure to listen to the Alan Bradely books. I felt the same way about The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency... the narrator definitely enhanced that series!

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  8. I'm sold -- sounds wonderful. Off to see if the libray has a copy.

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    1. Diane - Fingers crossed that they have it!!

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  9. I love Cassandra Campbell! I'm putting this one on my audio list.

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    1. Debbie - Cassandra Campbell is the best! Hope you like this one :)

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  10. Great review JoAnn. I read this in print and enjoyed it.

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    1. Pat - Thanks. My sister doesn't listen to audio books, so she'll be reading this in print.

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  11. Okay, you've definitely sealed the deal--can't avoid getting my hands on this any longer.

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  12. I loved this one too...I didn't think it was the #1 book of the year like Amazon did, but I did love it and it was one of my Best Debuts of 2014 (you're right, 2014 was such a great year for debuts!). And - the primary theme that struck me in this one was parents having no idea what their kids are up to...such a scary thought. And the whole thing about living your own dreams vicariously through your children..that's an especially dangerous parenting mistake! Glad you enjoyed it.

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    1. Sarah - Very scary that these parents had absolutely no idea what was going on in their kids' lives! I got so mad at the mother giving Lydia all those science/medical books, etc. This book really got to me!

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  13. Everyone loves this book, I really have to read it.

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    1. Jillian - This is such an impressive and insightful novel. Hard to believe it's a debut. Hope you get a chance to read it.

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  14. Such a beautiful review! This one is on my wishlist, but I had no idea it was that good. I will have to check it out

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    1. Athira - Thank you. I'm sure you'll find a lot to think about with this book.

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  15. Humm Now I have to decide if I'll read this or listen to it. Decisions, decisions.

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    1. Beth F - I don't think there's a wrong choice here.

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  16. Every book club I know is reading this. Except any of the book clubs I'm invited to join.

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    1. Care - Don't let that stop you... read it on your own. It's excellent!

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  17. Thanks for your glowing review. I will put this on my TBR list. I do have a connection to this, sharing the same last name (my maiden name, albeit spelt differently) as the author's, and knowing some mixed-race families, and parental expectations. But it sounds quite heavy. Have to find the right mood to read it

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    1. Arti - This is definitely one of those books where you need to be careful choosing when to read it. Hope you love it as much as I did.

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  18. I loved this one too! It brings out all the missteps and miscommunications that make family life dysfunctional...and if we pay attention, we might be able to see the red flags before the tragedies strike. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Laurel-Rain Snow - If nothing else, I think this book will make parents pay closer attention and look for those warning flags.

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  19. I have put this on my audible wish list - I also really like Cassandra Campbell as a narrator so I am looking forward to it.

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    1. Colleen - I think you'll love this one!

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  20. Excited you enjoyed this book on audiobook! I am hoping to read it that way soon.

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    1. Aarti - I'll look forward to your reaction :)

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  21. Sounds like this one would make an interesting book club choice. What do you think?

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    1. Lisa - Absolutely. I'll be suggesting it for my book club when we get home.

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  22. And here's one I've wanted to read from the get-go. Quickly moving up on my TBR pile!

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    1. Shaina - Hope you love it as much as I did!

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  23. This book got quite a bit of attention right around the holidays so I picked up a copy and it's been on my nightstand ever since. I only skimmed your review since I like to go into a book pretty oblivious. Now I wonder if I should get the audio from the library. Decisions decisions.

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    1. Les - I'm sure this is a great book in any format... just choose your reading time carefully. It's very sad.

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  24. Required reading for parents? I'm guessing that means a good thing but also makes me wonder if I'm ready for it! If I let myself, mothering can be so emotionally exhausting thinking about all the different things that I could potentially be screwing up. I do have this one on audio but I wonder if I should also check out the book and dual read. Sometimes I miss too much on audio if I'm not paying enough attention. Glad to hear your praise of this one, though!

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    1. Trish - This is an incredibly sad book, and will definitely make you think about what you want for your kids and why. BUT... when my girls were the age of yours, I can remember crying some nights when I was short of patience, not especially engaged, or whatever and thinking I had ruined
      their lives. Maybe not a good thing to read when you feel that way. I still think this is a great book, but choose your time carefully.

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