Prior to my summer vacation, I went book shopping at Vroman's and Celeste Ng's novel, Everything I Never Told You, caught my eye. I read it during our cruise and I donated my copy to the library on Royal Caribbean International's Explorer of the Seas. The library on the ship only had two shelves of books and the space was mostly used as a hangout for wayward teenagers. It was very pitiful. Future cruisers, bring books to leave and reclaim the quiet space!
PLOT - Set in the 1970's, Everything I Never Told You, kicks off with the death of high school student, Lydia Lee. Lydia went missing and has turned up in a nearby lake, apparently the victim of a drowning, although foul play has not been ruled out. Ng's story is told in a close third person perspective, drifting from Lydia's family members, as they all come to terms with her death and try to understand her life.
LIKE - The element of Ng's story that really popped for me was the way that she used perspective. As a writer, I sometimes find perspective to be a challenge and Ng handles this masterfully. The story floats between various characters and the distance is constantly rushing forward and pulling back. This works so well with both the theme of water and the idea of never truly knowing another person. Lydia is a character that puts on a different mask for each person that she knows, making for extremes in the way that each character perceives her and tries to make sense of her death. Thematically, Everything I Never Told You, reminds me very much of one of my favorite novels, Jeffrey Eugenides' The Virgin Suicides.
Ng's story is layered with other themes that add to the complexity. Lydia and her siblings are half Caucasian and half Chinese living in a suburban community in America in the 1970's. They struggle with both their identity and fitting in with the kids in their community. Lydia's mother grapples with giving up her career dreams to raise a family and as a result, she pushes all of her aspirations on an unwilling Lydia. The members of the Lee family are all living very private and isolated lives beneath the surface, as they try keeping up the facade of being a happy family.
DISLIKE- Nothing. This is a complex and fascinating story that is beautifully written by Ng.
RECOMMEND- Absolutely! Everything I Never Told You is an affecting read ( although, maybe a little dark for a vacation pick!) and I look forward to future efforts by Ng.