Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

Image is the cover of the book Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng. Image features a girl swimming face down in the water. Image is to accompany the book review on the same page.

After reading Ng’s second book, Little Fires Everywhere, and being gripped by the Netflix series of the same name starring Reese Witherspoon, I was keen to discover more from this New York Times bestselling author. 

The title of Ng’s first book, Everything I Never Told You, grabbed my attention and had me intrigued right from the start. My curiosity only grew upon reading the first line of the very first chapter:

Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.

Who is Lydia? 

Why is she dead? 

Who doesn’t know?

So many questions! And all of these questions fuel a constant sense of wariness and dread which hang in the mind of the reader as the story of the Lee family unfolds over the decades to the current day when their eldest daughter’s body is discovered in the local lake. 

Set in small town Ohio in the late 70s, Lydia is the favourite child of blonde-haired, American born Marilyn, and her Chinese-American husband, James. Their other children are the older and much loved brother to Lydia, Nathan, and the youngest and often forgotten child, Hannah. 

As in her second book, Little Fires Everywhere, Ng explores the complex and delicate relationships that exist in families, with an undercurrent of race relations and an exploration of minority groups. Everything I Never Told You gives readers an insight into how we as parents, whether deliberately or unknowingly, pass on our own personal fears and shortfalls to our children, and the inevitable fallout and damage that can result, despite our best intentions.

Everything I Never Told You is not a new release. It was first published in 2014, winning Amazon.com’s Best Book of 2014. At 292 pages, it’s a great weekend or holiday read. If you’re feeling particularly busy and time poor, it is equally one that can be picked up and put down intermittently, and will capture your attention at each sitting. Either way, Everything I Never Told You is an intriguing read. Understanding this family from the different perspectives of each character will inevitably prompt the reader to confront their own familial expectations and family dynamics. 

Published 2014 by Hachette Australia, 320 pages.

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