Julie's Reviews > Everything I Never Told You

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
Rate this book
Clear rating

by
5210022
's review

it was amazing
Read 2 times. Last read May 29, 2015 to June 4, 2015.

Everything I Knew Told Your by Celeste Ng is a 2015 Penguin Books publication.

As I began this book, my mind was a clean slate, with absolutely no preconceived ideas about it, so I was really surprised by it, and stunned by my emotional response to it. Once I started it, I literally did not move from the couch until I had turned the last page.

One of the main topics addressed here is the interracial marriage between a white woman, Marilyn, and an American Chinese man, James, who marry in the late 1950's, at a time when such an occurrence was very rare.

While this is a huge theme in the story and it is referred to often, I also picked up on the unhappiness I am sure many women like Marilyn felt in this time frame. Marilyn was smart, very smart, and wanted to be a doctor, (not a nurse), in a time when this too was very rare. Determined to have her cake and eat it to, she married the man she was in love with and started a family, but her career never materialized as planned. Marilyn eventually accepts her dream is never going to come to fruition and so it is her oldest daughter, Lydia, who must make up for this failing.

So, when Lydia disappears her parents are absolutely destroyed, and long buried feelings of resentment bubble to the surface and expose the cracks in this seemingly well adjusted and happy family.

It is hard to pinpoint who is the saddest character in the story. Lydia of course was a character that really struck a cord with me on a personal level. I know that pressure to live up to expectations you have no way of achieving, no matter how hard you work at it. Sometimes, we are are not born with the talents our parents possess and when you are supposed to live out their dream, failure to measure up is simply unacceptable.

Nath's character is hard to relate to at times. He's a guy, so his emotions are often masked in anger and bitterness. He desperately wants his father to support him and show pride in his son's rather impressive achievements, an area in which James failed utterly. Therefore, when Nath sees himself gaining an edge on Lydia, he turns away from her in hopes of finally getting a nod of approval from his father.

Then there is Hannah, the youngest child, who observes the family from afar and sees things more clearly than anyone else, but is often baffled by the actions of her family members. My heart ached for this poor neglected child who settled for crumbs thrown her way, but was just flat out lost in the shuffle, and perhaps Marilyn resented Hannah too, since Hannah's entry into the world effectively killed Marilyn's last ditch effort to finish school and achieve her career goals.

Then there is Marilyn whose character is both over the top and sad, a woman unfulfilled, terrified of ending up like her mother, while she is trapped in the same role of being a housewife and mom, she becomes so obsessed in her determination to save Lydia from this fate, she creates a toxic family atmosphere that is unhealthy for everyone and it ultimately backfires on her in a most awful, gut wrenching way.

James is just too passive. He never stands up to Marilyn, they never talk about things, he doesn't stand up for his children and I really couldn't understand what Marilyn saw in him. I was not impressed with him in any way until the very end when he appears to have a life altering epiphany that saves them all from total ruin.

So, the race issue is of course running in the background because it can't be ignored. The children born into an interracial marriage were thought to have special difficulty finding where they fit in. It was hard to make friends, to be involved in social activities and a plethora of other issues. James was of course particularly sensitive to race issues, and Nath also took racism to heart, but it is not a topic discussed within the family and Marilyn never makes an issue of it until her daughter disappears.

However, I am not convinced in any way that being in an interracial family was at the root of Lydia's issues, but it was easier to place the blame on race than to take a long hard look at themselves. Outsiders, not knowing the general make up within the family were quick to hypothesize, but ultimately I felt it was more Marilyn's tunnel vision that led Lydia to a pinnacle of supreme agony, she simply couldn't cope with.


This story is sad, emotional, but utterly absorbing, and beautifully written. My heart went out to all the characters in the book, some of whom I felt more keenly for than others, but I still wanted them to come out in tact, even if they will never be completely whole again. The Lee's will soldier on, believing in second chances, and learning from their past mistakes. This is a very thought provoking and compelling read, a cautionary tale, ending with a message of hope and the promise of better days to come. 5 stars
121 likes · flag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read Everything I Never Told You.
Sign In »

Reading Progress

Finished Reading (Hardcover Edition)
May 29, 2015 – Started Reading
June 4, 2015 – Shelved (Hardcover Edition)
June 4, 2015 – Finished Reading
February 22, 2017 – Shelved

Comments Showing 1-39 of 39 (39 new)

dateDown arrow    newest »

Cheri Outstanding review, Julie! I don't know how I missed this one. Loved reading your thoughts on this!


Julie Cheri wrote: "Outstanding review, Julie! I don't know how I missed this one. Loved reading your thoughts on this!"

Thank you, Cheri!! Celeste Ng is an amazing writer!!


Beverly Great summary Julie, I can't wait to read this.


Julie Beverly wrote: "Great summary Julie, I can't wait to read this."

Thank you, Beverly!!


message 5: by Rae (new) - rated it 4 stars

Rae Great review, Julie. I've enjoyed your thoughts on this story. Even though I've read this book a while ago, I was thinking of choosing this book for my turn of selection for our book club read. Your review has given me food for thought as to some great discussion topics among friends in our club.


Julie Rae wrote: "Great review, Julie. I've enjoyed your thoughts on this story. Even though I've read this book a while ago, I was thinking of choosing this book for my turn of selection for our book club read. You..."

Thank you, Rae! This book would make a terrific book club selection!


message 7: by Ushasree (new)

Ushasree N Wonderful review Julie. :)


message 8: by *TUDOR^QUEEN* (new)

*TUDOR^QUEEN* Marvelous review, Julie :-)


Julie Ushasree wrote: "Wonderful review Julie. :)"

Thank you, Ushasree!!


Julie *TUDOR^QUEEN* wrote: "Marvelous review, Julie :-)"

Thank you, TQ!!


message 11: by Tammy (new) - added it

Tammy Terrific review, Julie!


Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader Beautiful review, Julie! I need to make time for this one.


Marialyce I loved this book as well. Wonderful review, Julie.


Angela M Julie , a wonderful review. My heart broke for Hannah as well.


Meredith Wonderfull review, Julie! Glad you loved this too!


Julie Meredith wrote: "Wonderfull review, Julie! Glad you loved this too!"

Thank you, Meredith!!


Julie Angela M wrote: "Julie , a wonderful review. My heart broke for Hannah as well."

Thank you, Angela!!


Julie Marialyce wrote: "I loved this book as well. Wonderful review, Julie."

Thank you, Marialyce!!


Julie Karin wrote: "What a wonderful review Julie!!!!"

Thank you, Karin!!


Julie Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader wrote: "Beautiful review, Julie! I need to make time for this one."

Thank you, Jennifer!! I think you'd like this one. It's somber, but SO good!


Julie Tammy wrote: "Terrific review, Julie!"

Thank you, Tammy!!


message 22: by Paula (new)

Paula Kalin Fantastic review, Julie!


Julie Paula wrote: "Fantastic review, Julie!"

Thank you, Paula!!


Tucker Excellent review Julie! After I finished it I was recommending it to everyone!


Julie Tucker wrote: "Excellent review Julie! After I finished it I was recommending it to everyone!"

Thank you, Tucker!! This book does make quite an impression!


Kaceey - Traveling Sister Excellent review Julie!!🤗


Julie Kaceey - Traveling Sister wrote: "Excellent review Julie!!🤗"

Thank you, Kaceey!! 😊💕


message 28: by Candace (new) - added it

Candace Wonderful review, Julie! I need to move this book up my TBR list.


message 29: by Lori (new) - added it

Lori  Rubin Wonderful review! This one's definitely on my TBR list. I loved her last book.


Julie Candace wrote: "Wonderful review, Julie! I need to move this book up my TBR l
Thank you, Candace! This one is very emotional, but also very powerful.



Julie Lori wrote: "Wonderful review! This one's definitely on my TBR list. I loved her last book."

Thank you, Lori!! She has such a beautiful writing prose. 😊


message 32: by Lady Clementina (new)

Lady Clementina ffinch-ffarowmore Excellent review Julie. Sounds a great read!


Norma * Traveling Sister Wonderful review, Julie! I’m so glad you enjoyed it! 💕


Julie Lady Clementina wrote: "Excellent review Julie. Sounds a great read!"

Thank you, Lady Clementina!! It was a haunting novel. It really stuck with me for a long time.


Julie Norma * Traveling Sister wrote: "Wonderful review, Julie! I’m so glad you enjoyed it! 💕"

Thank you, Norma!! 💕😊


message 36: by Lynn (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lynn Perfect review. So well thought out and on point. It really brought the book back to me.


Julie Lynn wrote: "Perfect review. So well thought out and on point. It really brought the book back to me."

Thank you, Lynn!!


message 38: by Paromjit (new)

Paromjit Beautifully expressed review, Julie xx


Julie Paromjit wrote: "Beautifully expressed review, Julie xx"

Thank you, Paromjit!! 😊


back to top