May 28th 2021 - Book Group 1
Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
For May 2021, Book Group I read Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng. This novel centers on a small-town mixed-race family in the 1970’s grieving the death of their second and favorite child, teenage daughter Lydia. She had borne the weight of her parents’ conflicting expectations: that she should ‘fit in’ the way her American Chinese father never could and that she should ‘stand out’ by studying to become a doctor the way her American mother was unable to. As the Lees struggle to understand the how and why of Lydia’s drowning, the family's secrets are exposed: the dreams that have given way to disappointment; the unspoken insecurities, betrayals and yearnings. In so many ways the Lees failed to understand one another, even themselves. Lydia’s older brother and younger sister who had been largely ignored, get swept into the emotional conflicts and currents they had long been trying to avoid.
Trying to determine the mysterious cause of death makes this somewhat of a page turner; even the ending leaves us with questions. The author has tackled difficult themes of gender and racial inequality in the 70’s as well the complications of dysfunctional family dynamics, particularly in what they don’t say to each other. These same themes seem so very relevant today. Although our group was not universal in liking the book, it generated considerable discussion and was compared to another of Ng’s novels we have recently read, Little Fires Everywhere. I personally found this novel particularly engrossing, relatable, and beautifully crafted.