Dianne's Reviews > Everything I Never Told You

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
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it was amazing
bookshelves: best-of-2014

Gorgeous, tenderly rendered story about a family tragedy with deep roots.

The book’s opening is austere: “Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet. 1977, May 3, six thirty in the morning, no one knows anything but this innocuous fact: Lydia is late for breakfast.” From the bare bones of that terrible fact, the story blooms, tendril after tendril, the past entwining the present and reaching into the future.

James Lee is an American-born Chinese professor of history, teaching at Middlewood College in Ohio. He is married to blonde, blue-eyed Marilyn, who he met when he was a teaching assistant at Harvard and she was a physics major at Radcliffe with dreams of medical school. Marilyn became pregnant and dropped out of school to raise a family with James – Nath, Lydia and Hannah. Lydia is the golden child – carrying the heavy burden of her parents’ failed dreams, past humiliations, and lofty expectations. What happens to Lydia in the end is not what you may expect, and it has its origins in her parents’ relationship with their parents and in all the ways we misunderstand each other, the secrets we keep, and all of the things we never tell each other.

I am in awe of the craftsmanship of this author in her debut novel. Ms. Ng pulls together the threads of this story masterfully and creates characters that are poignant, memorable and real. The writing is sublime. One of my favorite characters is the quietly observant and neglected youngest child, Hannah:

“And what about Hannah? They set up her nursery in the bedroom is the attic, where things that were not wanted were kept, and even when she got older, now and then each of them would forget, fleetingly, that she existed – as when Marilyn, setting four plates for dinner one night, did not realize her omission until Hannah reached the table. Hannah, as if she understood her place in the cosmos, grew from quiet infant to watchful child: a child fond of nooks and corners, who curled up in closets, behind sofas, under dangling tablecloths, staying out of sight as well as out of mind, to ensure the terrain of the family did not change.”

A first rate novel, especially for a debut. Highly recommend.

On a side note, I found it interesting that Ng was an MFA student at University of Michigan with Jessmyn Ward, author of “Men We Reaped,” another 5-star read for me from this year. It seems like my favorite writers lately are coming from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and the University of Michigan MFA program. Kudos to them!
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Reading Progress

June 27, 2014 – Shelved
June 27, 2014 – Shelved as: to-read
August 17, 2014 – Started Reading
August 20, 2014 –
page 143
48.97% "Really good!"
August 21, 2014 – Finished Reading
August 22, 2014 – Shelved as: best-of-2014

Comments Showing 1-19 of 19 (19 new)

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Jeannie Excellent review!


Angela M I don't know when I'll get to this one, Dianne , but your review makes me want to get to it soon.


Dianne Ladies, this was really good! If you read it, hope you enjoy it as much as I did.


Renata Just ordered it on amazon. Should be here on Tuesday. Dianne, your reviews always inspire me.


Trudy Diane, this book was amazing! So, of course, I'll have to check out MEN WE REAPED. (smiles)


Britany Beautiful Review Dianne :)


Dianne Thank you, Britany!


message 8: by sue (new) - added it

sue That's a couple of good reviews I have read today, brilliant review Dianne, cant wait to read this on my list


message 9: by sue (new) - added it

sue following your reviews :)


Cathrine ☯️ LOVE your review Diane as I loved this story! I will have to check out Men We Reaped.


Dianne Thanks, Cathrine, so glad you loved it too!


Carol An excellent, moving review. I also loved this novel. It reminded me of Ordinary People...another favorite.


Dianne Thank you, Carol. That's one I haven't read yet, will have to add it.


message 14: by PorshaJo (new) - added it

PorshaJo Great review Dianne! Another one that's been on my to-read list too long.


Dianne PorshaJo, you would love this!


message 16: by Katie (new) - added it

Katie Great review, Dianne. I like the sound of this. Thanks.


Cheri Terrific review, Dianne!


Dianne Cheri wrote: "Terrific review, Dianne!"

Thanks, Cherie!


Dianne Katie wrote: "Great review, Dianne. I like the sound of this. Thanks."

Thanks, Katie - I'm sorry I didn't respond right away, I just saw your kind comment.


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