Everything I Never Told You

by Celeste Ng

Saturday, January 2, 2021

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Good to start the year off with a good read… I expected this to be not as good as Little Fires Everywhere but enjoyed it just as much and if anything I think it might have been better paced. Like that later book it starts with something bad happening, in this case the death of 16 year old Lydia, and then goes back to show how that happened. It felt a bit like a mystery for much of the book but without the expectation that you’d end up knowing what happened in the end. You did, more or less, find out what happened in the end but it still wasn’t a mystery (not a good or a bad thing, just an observation).

I didn’t really think before I started the book about the effect that a book about a family dealing with the death of their 16 year old daughter was going to have on me, as my own daughter is almost 16, it was, yes, interesting, though whether it upset me more than it would have done otherwise is hard to gauge. It did upset me quite a lot in places but not always for the reasons I thought it would. Even though the book is set in a completely different time and place and with completely different people than my family, and you have to hope that a lot of the cruel attitudes in the book stayed in the 1970s where it’s set, there’s a lot of universal themes in it and unfortunately you know that the kinds of casual racism and sexism that are present in the story haven’t yet been wiped out.

It manages to both be a good yarn and make you think a lot, primarily I think because it’s populated with realistic characters. Sometimes I felt that the characters, especially Lydia’s parents, were being made a bit too obtuse, but when you get to explore their own upbringings and young parenthood it all, sadly, makes sense, and you see how people end up perpetuating things when they actually want to change them. Highly recommended anyway.