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May 2018: Family Drama > Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng - 4 stars

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message 1: by Meli (new)

Meli (melihooker) | 3685 comments Everything I Never Told You, debut novel from Little Fires Everywhere author Celeste Ng, focuses on the family of Marilyn and James Lee, dealing with the aftermath of the death of their middle child Lydia Lee. Lydia’s untimely and mysterious death forces her parents to reflect on their past, consider the choices they’ve made and how those choices influenced their expectations for the Lee children. James’ childhood is tempered by his experience as the son of Chinese immigrants and one of the only Asian kids in his school, while Marilyn grappled with her aspirations of being a doctor in a male dominated field.

The title aptly reflects the central theme of the book; secrets between all characters - husband to wife, parent to child, vice versa, and again sibling to sibling – creating unnecessary drama and misunderstandings for the family, at times seemingly innocuous but exceedingly harmful.

The book shifts from present to flashbacks of different family members throughout the story, each visit to the past revealing more about the motivation for that character in the present. One moment you are cursing a character’s choices, the next your heart is breaking for them with new glimpses into their personal experience.

Celeste Ng proves in this debut, as well as Little Fires Everywhere, that she has great insights into the human condition and is able spin that into compelling stories that are thought-provoking as well as entertaining.

Highly recommend.


message 2: by Nicole R (new)

Nicole R (drnicoler) | 7784 comments I thought this one was okay, but the way the family handled their interactions really annoyed me.

Did you also read Little Fires Everywhere? So many PBTers have read it and I swear that I am going to get to it eventually.


message 3: by Meli (new)

Meli (melihooker) | 3685 comments Yes, and I loved that one as well! I think I was more engaged in Little Fires Everywhere, but I really liked both novels.

What was it about their interactions that frustrated you specifically?


message 4: by Nicole R (new)

Nicole R (drnicoler) | 7784 comments Meli wrote: "Yes, and I loved that one as well! I think I was more engaged in Little Fires Everywhere, but I really liked both novels.

What was it about their interactions that frustrated you specifically?"


My family is just very very different than this one and would never in a million years react to tragedy like they did. I know, because we have reacted to tragedy. And it make it hard to not only connect with the characters, but I was so darn frustrated with them the whole time! If they just would have freaking communicated even a little with each other their lives would have been so much easier.

This is from my review:

Holding this book back from a full 5 star rating is my frustration with the characters at many points. I often struggle with books like this because I am from a very open and honest family. If anything, we overshare with each other on a daily basis and minute details of our lives are treated as the most important part of the day. While I LOVE this in my own family, it makes it hard for me to connect with or understand a family that doesn't communicate, that has looming secrets, and that is so fundamentally unhappy. Even in the face of tragedy (which my family has dealt with in spades) we did not shut down but actually became closer.


message 5: by Meli (new)

Meli (melihooker) | 3685 comments I could understand your own personal experiences impacting your connection to the characters, but if they communicated better there would be no story :)

But, my family is like yours, if anything we communicate so much it can at times be to our detriment.

I think the opposite is more common (lack of communication), at least I have found that to be true with my friends and acquaintances.


message 6: by Nicole R (new)

Nicole R (drnicoler) | 7784 comments I totally agree that lack of communication is very very common. So, in that sense I think the book was realistic. It just wasn't something I could personally relate to. Which doesn't make it a bad book, just one that I enjoy less than others.


message 7: by Susie (new)

Susie | 4488 comments I loved this one so much more than LFE. Maybe it depends which one you read first? I found the writing and plot to be more sophisticated. LFE fell in to chick lit category for me.


message 8: by Jason (new)

Jason Oliver | 2105 comments I come from a family with very little communication. We all say a lot, but nothing of real depth and value. Very surface. When my mother died, we never talked about it. We grieved for a week and then moved on. My dad married again in what I now feel to be a short time. Even when the school counselor offer to take me out of class for a group discussion with a girl who also lost her mother...my father turned it down. I was 10 when my mother died. So I may relate to the actions of non-communication. Though, I'm sure it would still bother me, because I know first hand the dangers and harm of holding all that in and not communicating and I fight hard to correct the natural inclination to be surface and not communicate.

Also, the subject matter seems much more intense than Little Fires Everywhere. I have to read it though after greatly enjoying Little Fires Everywhere.


message 9: by Nicole R (new)

Nicole R (drnicoler) | 7784 comments That sounds like a very hard experience for a little 10 year old boy 😕 I am sorry you had to go through it.


message 10: by Amy (new)

Amy | 9388 comments Jason, I think often about you losing your mother at 10. It’s not a good enough recompense, but your life has taught you so much about family dynamics and relationships. Not to mention faith and spirituality. Again, it’s not a good enough exchange, but it makes for the experience of a keen reader and thinker, and is the makings of a great writer. I can’t wait to see what cones out of you.

This book however, was a solid three for me. And I felt, unworthy of the raves it was getting. It was just fine. But not a not to be missed. I actually liked little fires everywhere far better.


message 11: by Meli (new)

Meli (melihooker) | 3685 comments I could understand this book not connecting with other readers. Really, at its core, it is simply a family drama with the tease of a mystery that isn't the driving force of the book.

Sorry to hear about your mother, Jason, and the difficult experience you had trying to cope. I lost my father when I was around the same age. My mom took me to psychiatrists and therapists to work out the feelings I had, but I was too young to understand what I was feeling and it came out in unhealthy ways later anyway.


message 12: by Jason (new)

Jason Oliver | 2105 comments Meli, sorry to hear that. I guess there is no way to win in that situation.


message 13: by Meli (new)

Meli (melihooker) | 3685 comments Like Amy said, I think eventually there was a lot to be gained from the experience and I am a stronger, better person, so it's not all bad. I just meant to share an opposite experience.

Initially, I didn't think Everything I Never Told You would generate the same type of discussions as Little Fires Everywhere, with its more obvious controversial topic, but the family dynamics in regards to communication from this story has generated some interesting perspectives.


message 14: by Jason (new)

Jason Oliver | 2105 comments Meli wrote: "Like Amy said, I think eventually there was a lot to be gained from the experience and I am a stronger, better person, so it's not all bad. I just meant to share an opposite experience.

Initially..."


Thank-you for sharing your experience. I often wonder if things had been handled differently if things would have been easier. My father married 6 months after my mother died. (no I don't believe anything was happening while my mother was alive. I believe it to be more of a financial decision)

After reading your experience.....probably not. My little brother wasn't effected as much as he was 6 and does not remember mom. My step-mother is his mom, but you can definitely see the effects it has had on my older brother, sister, and me.


message 15: by Meli (new)

Meli (melihooker) | 3685 comments I guess, of course, it could depend on a number of other factors and circumstances that could lead to a different outcome. And individual personality.

Back to EINTY... question below for the other readers which contains spoiler!
(view spoiler)


message 16: by Book Concierge (new)

Book Concierge (tessabookconcierge) | 6407 comments Meli wrote: "Back to EINTY... question below for the other readers which con..."

I think the second option but (view spoiler)


message 17: by Meli (last edited May 18, 2018 10:17AM) (new)

Meli (melihooker) | 3685 comments (view spoiler)


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