Set in small town Ohio, in the 1970’s, Everything I Never Told You tells the story of the Lee family: father, James, a professor and Chinese-American; Marilyn, a blue-eyed blonde, and their three children, one of which has disappeared as the story opens.
The investigation into sixteen-year-old Lydia’s disappearance and consequent death (not a spoiler, as this is revealed in the opening chapter) unearth’s a tragic tale of the consequences of not fitting-in, of not pursuing one’s own dreams, and of the gap that divides one generation from the next. Interracial marriage, racial discrimination, homosexuality, and women’s issues are all approached in Celeste Ng’s novel.
As a mother, I found myself relating to Marilyn’s ambition for Lydia – wanting her to live a life not defined by relationships to men. At the same time, I could empathize with Lydia’s drive to please both of her parents, and the confusion it creates about her own sense of self.
Ng’s novel clearly illustrates the complexities of her characters and their internal struggles, and in the end, leaves the audience with a sense of hope.
The audio version of this novel, read by Cassandra Campbell is well done, although I personally find Ms. Campbell’s exaggerated enunciation of words to be annoying at times.
Everything I Never Told You is an easy read, and would be suitable for book clubs and young adult readers.