Navidad Thelamour's Reviews > Everything I Never Told You

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
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"How suffocating it is to be loved that much."

Everything I Never Told You centers around the Lee family: James, the Chinese-American professor who lectures on the epitome of what was never attainable for him—true Americanism—Marilyn, the blond wife who’d always dreamed of being a doctor when female doctors were a rare phenomenon only to turn out just what her mother had hoped and what Marilyn had always wished to avoid, and their three children, Nathan, Lydia and Hannah. James and Marilyn focus all of their attention on Lydia who they are determined to mold into everything that they were never able to achieve themselves, creating a crushing pressure for her that comes from both sides. When she dies unexpectedly, the glue that holds them all together is no longer able to hold. As they try to learn what happened to her—and why—they come to realize that she was not the girl they thought she was. The reader is allowed to learn this before the family does, which creates a beautiful inside glimpse of a family crumbling.

Everything I Never Told You is about just that: the subtle nuances and emotions that go unsaid, the familial tension behind closed doors that goes unnoticed, unexplored, and the way that our lineage and upbringing shape our lives, for better or for worse. Gripping in its portrayal of dreams deferred and hopes crushed, of coming of age in the 60s and 70s, of the subtle (and not-so-subtle) cruelties of the world and of the ignorance of those who would rather mock than understand, Everything was an exploration of the overwhelming pressure of a family’s love and expectations—both for themselves and for their children. Despite the fact that this one had a few moments of lethargy at the start, it all came together beautifully, and the last half or so of the novel I finished in one sitting. This novel, all told, was a bold and shattering glimpse into reality for all of the characters involved. It was the historical and ancestral short-fallings, misgivings and dreams unrealized that brought this book to a head in the most lovely way. It was chilling in its honest and straight-forward depiction of challenges with fitting in, with being oneself, all wrapped into beautiful little metaphors that were easy to hold…and easy to crush: a Betty Crocker cookbook, a white doctor’s coat, cowboys, a silver locket.

“Different” was the connective tissue here. The characters’ differences from those of the outside world and in the incongruousness of their perception of themselves versus what others saw were so well developed that the feeling of discomfort (both in their lives and in their minds) was palpable, creating a need to continue turning the pages. Ng portrayed their longing here brilliantly—longing to be someone else, to be free.

“Sometimes you almost forgot: that you didn’t look like everyone else…you saw it in the little boys on the playground, stretching their eyes to slits with their fingers—Chinese—Japanese—look at these—and in the older boys who muttered ching chong ching chong ching as they passed you on the street, just loud enough for you to hear…and tried to forget about it. And you did, until it happened again.”

Ng was not forceful with her hand, but allowed those things unsaid, undone, unnoticed, to tell the story in its way of delicate nuances. The snatching off of a locket here, the touching of ones finger to tongue there. It was those subtleties that the reader had to catch, or they’d miss something integral. Characterized by lovely narrative prose, Ng’s MFA background stood out and was on full display in a way that showed spirit and depth. Mellifluous, introspective and refined, it dug into the very soul of what it means, what it must feel like, to be different. 5 stars. *****

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Reading Progress

March 24, 2016 – Started Reading
March 24, 2016 – Shelved
April 3, 2016 – Finished Reading
April 4, 2016 – Shelved as: multicultural-fiction
April 4, 2016 – Shelved as: contemporary-fiction
April 4, 2016 – Shelved as: historical-fiction
April 4, 2016 – Shelved as: oh-where-have-you-been-all-my-life
April 4, 2016 – Shelved as: read-2016
April 4, 2016 – Shelved as: reviewed-on-amazon
April 4, 2016 – Shelved as: reviewed-on-barnesandnoble
June 12, 2016 – Shelved as: lit-fic
June 16, 2016 – Shelved as: full-review
July 30, 2016 – Shelved as: author-liked-review-on-twitter
October 4, 2016 – Shelved as: coming-of-age
January 13, 2018 – Shelved as: made-me-cry

Comments Showing 1-20 of 20 (20 new)

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Jennifer Great review Navidad!


Navidad Thelamour Jennifer wrote: "Great review Navidad!"

Thanks so much!


message 3: by Ran (new)

Ran I just put this book on display at my library. I'm so happy to hear that you enjoyed it. Great review!


message 4: by Nick (new)

Nick Pageant Sold!


Cathrine ☯️ Excellent review Navidad! I've been struggling with longer reviews lately but you had me all the way. I loved this book.


Navidad Thelamour Thanks, Cathrine! :)


Navidad Thelamour Big shout out to Celeste Ng for liking this review on Twitter!!! :)


message 8: by Rae (new)

Rae Meadows Excellent review, Navidad! (She's also very supportive of other writers so I give an extra thumbs up)


Barbara (The Bibliophage) Great review, although I may wait a while to read since we have some parallels in our family that would make it extra emotional right now.


message 10: by Candace (new)

Candace Wonderful review, Navidad! :)


Mbgirl Your writing itself is both thorough, insightful, and very much captures large themes of book. Thank you


Navidad Thelamour Thank you so much, Mbgirl. Much appreciated, and I'm glad you liked the review!


Elyse Walters I enjoyed your review & thoughts too!! Boy - ‘you’ can write lovely... expressing the essence so beautiful.


Navidad Thelamour Elyse wrote: "I enjoyed your review & thoughts too!! Boy - ‘you’ can write lovely... expressing the essence so beautiful."

Thank you so much, Elyse! This book was very special, so I hope I did it justice!


message 15: by Magdalena (new) - added it

Magdalena Wonderful review, Navidad!


Navidad Thelamour Thank you, Magdalena!


j e w e l s [Books Bejeweled] one of my all time faves!


Navidad Thelamour Mine too! Another life-changing read!


message 19: by Gaye (new)

Gaye Stathis Read your review as a prep for a book club discussion of Everything. You are so eloquent and insightful girl! You should be a professor of literature in the ivy leagues.


Navidad Thelamour Gaye wrote: "Read your review as a prep for a book club discussion of Everything. You are so eloquent and insightful girl! You should be a professor of literature in the ivy leagues."

Thank you, Gaye! I SO appreciate that! :) I've actually been talking to a professor friend of mine about finally using my MA to BECOME a professor, so you have no idea how encouraging your words were. :) Thank you again!


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