Everything I Never Told You
by Celeste Ng
read in October 2017
“He pushed her in. And then he pulled her out. All her life, Lydia would remember one thing. All his life, Nath would remember another.”
I absolutely fell in love with Everything I Never Told You. It’s probably my favourite read of 2017 so far, if not of all-time. I can’t believe I owned a copy of this book for over two years before I picked it up.
After the death of Lydia, this family falls apart. We learn more about their past, but also what they’re going through after this tragic event. Every single character in this novel is flawed, but they’re not unlikeable. I really cared about Nath, Lydia, Hannah and Jack in particular.
Though you can tell this family loves each other, they only love certain versions of one another. This is a book about people who feel unloved, and perhaps that’s why I loved reading Everything I Never Told You so much.
James’ parents were Chinese immigrants, so his children with Marilyn are biracial. It was very interesting to learn more about Chinese immigration to the United States and how biracial children and interracial couples were treated. It broke my heart that James felt ashamed of his parents and his heritage (e.g. not speaking Chinese to them anymore, ignoring them at school), all because people made him feel different.
Besides racism, this book also deals with female emancipation. It was very interesting to read about Marilyn’s struggles and how she unfortunately pushed her daughter to be someone she didn’t want to be. Interactions within a family are so complex and I think this book portrayed that perfectly. Like I said, you could clearly tell this was a loving family, but they made a lot of mistakes as well. Having said that, that doesn’t excuse the emotional and physical abuse, but I truly believe these characters changed towards the end of the novel.
The writing was very good. The author kept adding little pieces of forewarning, so I couldn’t put the book down (e.g. “Later, none of them will remember how the day passes, only numbed blur, overshadowed by all that would happen the next day“).
Everything You Never Told Me made me cry multiple times. This novel felt so real, as if these characters really exist. I definitely want to pick up Little Fires Everywhere soon.
content and trigger warnings for: racism, emotional and physical abuse, drowning, death, cheating, under-age drinking, ableism (“What if it’s some crazy? Some psycho kidnapping girls?” and “You’re crazy”) and mentions of suicide.
Everything I Never Told You is one of my favourite books of all-time. I fell in love with these characters, each flawed, but not unlike-ably so. This book deals with racism, female emancipation and grief and I cannot wait to read more of Celeste Ng’s work. I would recommend this beautiful yet heartbreaking story to everyone.
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