celeste ng’s debut novel everything i never told you was one of the breakout hits of 2014 / 2015, and i felt like everywhere i turned i was reading another glowing review of it. i finally snagged a copy for myself at the end of last year and decided it would be my first book of the new year. i began it at the memphis airport on my way back to bangalore and finished it last week, and i loved it.
everything i never told you is the story of the lee family, a chinese-american family living in small-town ohio in the 1970s. lydia, the middle of the three lee children, has disappeared, turning the family and the town on its head.
as the family learns to live without lydia and searches for answers, ng goes back in time to explore how all their past actions have led to this moment in time. how james and marilyn, lydia’s parents, met in boston and married at a time when interracial marriage was still illegal across most of the united states. how they came to live and raise their family in middlewood, ohio. and how an event ten years prior forever altered the inner workings of the family.
through it all, lydia’s star shone brightest for her parents. she was to be everything they could not, to do everything they could not, and ng delicately dives into the pressures she faced and the impact this attention had on her older brother and younger sister.
this was a fascinating book for me to read on a number of levels. for one, there was the intricacy of james and marilyn’s marriage. while in undergrad i wrote a research paper on loving v virginia, the court case that overturned the national ban on interracial marriage and a case that is referenced in this book. and as a child of immigrants, i could relate to the mentions of the lee children being the only non-caucasian students in their school, albeit about twenty years prior to my own experience.
i also love the back-and-forth nature of the book and how ng weaves between past and present. everything that happens in the present was set in motion by some past action or event, and everything is slowly unravelled until the reader has all the available information.
this book was reminiscent of the lovely bones in a number of ways, but it was also uniquely its own work, and i very much enjoyed it. this one comes highly recommended.
before that, she hadn’t realized how fragile happiness was, how if you were careless, you could knock it over and shatter it.
my goodreads rating: 4 out of 5 // average rating is 3.76
currently reading: malcolm gladwell’s the tipping point, lauren juliff’s how not to travel the world, and peter carey’s oscar and lucinda. and making my way through my beloved harry potter books as i have time.
ng’s book has set the bar high for my 2016 reads, and i can’t wait to see what the rest of the year has in store for me.
what are you reading these days? anything interesting?