Everything I Never Told You (2014) by Celeste Ng is a short and (bitter)sweet read. It reads super smoothly and is so simple yet emotional and poignant. It makes me thankful that I’m so vocal and communication-oriented in all of my relationships, because this book is all about what happens when you keep things bottled up. Nothing truly WRONG happens in this family, if it wasn’t for Lydia’s death it would have been a truly average, run-of-the-mill family-next-door. I guess that’s what makes it hit home, it’s the truly normal way in which we are so self-involved. No-one really lies, they just act on their own thoughts without explaining where they’re coming from. There’s no child abuse, and yet the children are upset. It touches on the hot topics like racism, sexism, death, sexuality and coming of age but it’s not about those things.
“What made something precious? Losing it and finding it.”
Btw this is not a mystery or thriller book even though it starts with a death. It’s like a depressed version of The Brady Bunch. This is a close up of ordinary life that’s blown-up to something beautiful – like a macro picture of a raindrop, something you might not pay attention to in real life but once you zoom in it’s actually fragile, surreal and and halting. That’s what this book is, a quiet beauty that you either appreciate or you brush by without noticing.
That being said, I didn’t connect deeply with the characters, I wasn’t moved to tears (in spite of teenage death), I didn’t go into mourning when I finished the book. I just enjoyed a nice quick read that made me think a little bit but didn’t push me out of my comfort zone.
I like that it’s subtle and wasn’t a lecture the way Americanah was. It also reminded me a LOT of what happened to the girl in Adnan’s Story (but mainly because an American-Asian 17 year old girl died – that’s about the extent of the similarity, but my mind kept casting Lydia as Hae Min Lee). If you want to go more in-depth about how Asian immigrants are treated in America then definitely check out The Leavers.
Now go and give you siblings/parents/children a big group hug.