Release Date: 26th June 2014
Lydia is the favourite child of Marilyn and James Lee; a girl who inherited her mother’s bright blue eyes and her father’s jet-black hair. Her parents are determined that Lydia will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue – in Marilyn’s case that her daughter become a doctor rather than a homemaker, in James’s case that Lydia be popular at school, a girl with a busy social life and the centre of every party. But Lydia is under pressures that have nothing to do with growing up in 1970s small town Ohio. Her father is an American born of first-generation Chinese immigrants, and his ethnicity, and hers, make them conspicuous in any setting.
When Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, James is consumed by guilt and sets out on a reckless path that may destroy his marriage. Marilyn, devastated and vengeful, is determined to make someone accountable, no matter what the cost. Lydia’s older brother, Nathan, is convinced that local bad boy Jack is somehow involved. But it’s the youngest in the family – Hannah – who observes far more than anyone realises and who may be the only one who knows what really happened. -GR
For Celeste Ng’s first book – jeez. This was amazing. I have a whole lot to talk about but I’m going to try and keep it brief. The writing style is just the way I love it, not too simplistic, but poetic and emotional without being flowery. I could read an entire Les Mis-size book about making a sandwich if it was written in Ng’s style.
As it is, thankfully, the plot was much more complex than sandwich making. It’s very character driven (I seem to be on a character orientated kick at the minute) and every character had such complex pasts and motives, each with their own flaws and strengths and most of all, were realistic in a (very warped) family environment. Despite some of them doing terrible things, I just wanted to give each member of the Lee family a hug and a cup of hot chocolate, yet again testament to Ng’s skill.
Of course, with the story centred around a Chinese-American family, it’s more diverse than some of the other books I’ve read recently. I admit that I’m not well educated in the racism Chinese people faced in America in the past – coming from a primarily white part of Britain – but now this book has opened my eyes and has made me want to read more about it. I think we owe that.
Aside from having great characters, being so well-written and educational, the plot was also engaging and kept me thinking about it all the time I was in class. I blanked my friends at break so I could finish, which they’re used to by now but I should probably still feel guilty for. My only complaint was that it was a teensy bit slow in places as it jumps back and forth between the 50s and 70s. If you’re okay with a not so action packed narrative, this shouldn’t be an issue.
Just as a note, Celeste Ng answers a lot of questions on Goodreads about the decisions she made throughout the book. It’s so interesting to go back and see exactly why things were done and characters were the way they were. I’ll leave a link to her profile here if you want to check it out.
Her next book LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE is out in autumn of this year and I’ll definitely be picking it up!
If you’ve read Everything I Never Told You, let me know what you thought!