Is there anything better than finishing off the year with an absolutely cracking read? I think not. Which is why it’s a little disappointing that I finished Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng with a few days to spare – it was so freaking good it almost makes me want to not read anything until 2016. (That’s a very big ‘almost’ – I’m not even sure it’s possible for me to go four days without reading, and I’m certain I don’t want to find out!)
This book hit me in all of the feels – it was incredibly moving and sad, but also heart-warming, frustrating, poignant and beautiful. The story centres around the Lee family as they come to terms with the surprise death of their young daughter (don’t worry, this is not a spoiler – the very first line of the book is “Lydia is dead”). I say surprise because, from the outside, Lydia is happy, smart, popular – basically everything a teenage girl could hope to be. She is the favourite among three children – a dynamic that provides some of the book’s most frustrating and devastating moments. She is torn between a mother who is single-minded in her drive for Lydia to fulfil her own failed dream of becoming a doctor and a father who is desperate for her to be popular, to ‘fit in’, to ‘belong’. Something he wasn’t able to achieve, as the only Chinese man living in a white-washed, 1980s, small-town America.
The book is structured so that we start with Lydia’s death, and we go back and forth to the past where the actions and events of everyone’s lives build and culminate in a present where Lydia is dead, and no one knows how or why.
Everything I Never Told You is essentially a portrait of a family and it’s unique functions and disfunctions. But it also deals heavily with themes of race and belonging, and it is these concepts that make for some truly devastating scenes.
Ng’s writing throughout is beautiful and captivating – the story is enjoyable, even when it is at its most sad, and it was almost impossible to put down.
I would recommend this book to anyone and everyone, without reservation – it’s one of the best books I’ve read this year (and in a year that contained All the Light We Cannot See and Station Eleven, that’s saying something).