Monday, February 8, 2016

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

When a novel begins with a missing daughter, you have an idea that it may deal with difficult subject matter. When the reader learns that, after a search and rescue team is sent out, her body is found in a lake, it gets harder.

Everything I Never Told You is difficult to read. It is about a family whose individual members are struggling to fit in. It's clearly not an easy thing being an interracial family in America, regardless of the strides people may have made with regards to racism. Whether we wish to believe it or not, there is still a difference in people's minds when they see a Chinese man with a white woman. Obviously, it was even harder for society to comprehend in the 1970s, when this novel was set.

Having parents who can't really accept themselves doesn't always prove positive for their children. No, mother and father can't be blamed for having internal issues caused by the external world, but daughter may have a harder time living in her own skin when her parents push her to get the best out of herself--harder even than she may be able to deal with. Obviously, Marilyn and James Lee had their daughter's best interest in mind: they didn't want her to be the girl who couldn't become a doctor because she was a girl--a Chinese girl, no less!

But maybe she didn't want to become a doctor? Maybe she didn't have the tools to excel in school that she once did? Societal pressures transmitted by the ones who want the very best for you causing a weight that you just cannot bear...

And then what happens? If someone just can't handle everything, they either ask for help or do something that they may regret in the future. Lydia Lee was forced into making a decision. She wasn't getting along with her brother who was her rock. She couldn't possibly talk to her parents. So she made a choice. 

Celeste Ng does a wonderful job illustrating such a painful reality in her fiction. Everything I Never Told You is a great, although heartbreaking, novel. I recommend it to those who have had a hard time fitting in at some point, and others who haven't--there may be a time that you will. 

It's obviously not a light read, but one that moves very quickly nonetheless. I would definitely take the time to read it if I were you. 

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