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Unspoken Expectations   Leave a comment

Everything I Never Told You - Celeste Ng (pb).jpg

Although 16-year-old Lydia Lee is dead (revealed in the first sentence), her presence is felt on every page of Celeste Ng’s Everything I Never Told You.

The coping mechanisms of each household member are revealed through their past and current experiences. The Lees live in a small, Midwestern college town. Ng’s descriptions of its physical attributes make it sound like Perfect Place, USA. As the reader learns more about the family, the more that’s gleaned about Lydia.

Marilyn, Lydia’s mom, is angry and convinced that Lydia was abducted. Marilyn had aspirations of becoming a doctor not just because she was a brilliant student, but as a way of distancing herself from her mother, a home economics teacher.

James, Lydia’a father, is of Chinese descent. He grew up in the 1950s dealing with prejudices against skin color and eye shape. When he and Marilyn fall in love it’s his realization of the American Dream. Lydia’s older brother, Nath, and younger sister, Hannah, round out the family.

This is a story of a child’s naïve prayer, a mother’s efforts to re-launch a lost ambition, a father who’s spent his life struggling to fit in and two siblings emotionally lost in the shadows of their parents obvious preference for their middle child.

The title is intriguing on its own, but has much more weight at the novel’s conclusion because its meaning is not what was expected. Ng’s narrative is framed by familial and societal expectations. Consequently, there are many victims in her portrait.

Everything I Never Told You
Four Bookmarks
Penguin Books, 2014
298 pages

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Posted February 21, 2016 by bluepagespecial in Books, Reviews

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