Everything I Never Told You, by Celeste Ng

He pushed her in. And then he pulled her out. All her life, Lydia would remember one thing. All his life, Nath would remember another.

Rating: 3/5
Author: Celeste Ng
Genre: fiction, contemporary
Publisher: Penguin Random House

Everything I Never Told You tells the story of the sudden death of Lydia Lee, marking the end of an idyllic domestic façade made up of lies, secrets, and yearning. Soon enough, they find out that solving the mystery of her death means answering an even more crucial question: who was Lydia Lee?

The influence of family relationships is unveiled through interweaving narratives that depict a family far from picture-perfect. It starts with Lydia’s parents: being unable to pursue a career in Medicine, Marilyn is disappointed to find out that she has inadvertently fulfilled her mother’s wishes, while James is stuck in a job where he conceals his insecurity by trying to be like everyone else. They become so engrossed in making sure that their children -especially Lydia- stay as far away from their own experiences growing up that they don’t even realize that a path is already being laid out for them, one defined by high hopes and inherited dreams. In the end, Marilyn and James’s clashing definition of ‘success’ makes it ultimately impossible for their children to please them. Expectations carry a heavy weight to them, sometimes one impossible to bear.

Despite its short length, Celeste Ng manages to tackle complex themes, such as racism, sexism and gender identity in the 1970s. Character development is what makes the plot move forward as we are led to the events surrounding Lydia’s death, making it a compelling read.

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