This book was recommended to me by one of my friends… It’s a book that gave me all the feels, which I rarely get, and I’m going to do a short review at the end.
For once, something that isn’t science fiction!
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Celeste Ng expresses the complicated nature of families through her meticulous storytelling and beautiful attention to detail. Although there’s a lot of silence in this story, she fully explores the nuance and meaning that can be conveyed through saying nothing.
Furthermore, she tackles the difficult subjects of racism, love, and death with a delicate but thorough narration that ties the many perspectives of this fragile family together. A really perspective-changing read.
First line of the book
Lydia is dead.
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Lydia was the favourite child of Marilyn and James Lee. Her parents had been determined that she would fulfil the dreams they were unable to pursue themselves, though she had also been under pressures that had nothing to do with growing up. Her father is an American born of first-generation Chinese immigrants, which makes him and his children conspicuous in any setting, especially in 1970s small-town Ohio.
When Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, James is consumed by guilt, while Marilyn is determined to make someone accountable, no matter what the cost. Lydia’s older brother, Nathan, is convinced that local bad boy Jack is somehow involved. But it’s the youngest in the family, Hannah, who observes far more than anyone realises, and who may be the only one who knows what really happened…
Introduce the main character using only three words
Lydia Lee – complex, fragile, lonely
This is for slightly older teens because the subject of death, racism and the delicate balance of the family can only really be understood once you’ve matured a little.
The realisation of how much my parents gave up – their hopes, their dreams, their lives even – to look after us really hit me hard.
I think it would be a particularly great read for us first/second-generation immigrants because although we are lucky to experience a lot less racism than people did in the past, it is something that we must not forget and this book does an excellent job of reminding us.
Sexism also features prevalently so I’d actually recommend this book to anyone.
Your favourite line/scene
“People decide what you’re like before they even get to know you.” She eyed him, suddenly fierce. “Kind of like you did with me. They think they know all about you. Except you’re never who they think you are.”
You can buy Celeste Ng’s Everything I Never Told You here on Amazon UK.
There are so many subjects that Celeste Ng explores in this novel. The weightiness of silence, for instance, haunts the entire book. The parents don’t mention anything about their past to their children. They don’t discuss what the children are feeling. Lydia and Nath read each other’s silence. Actions speak louder than words.
It is exactly this lack of communication – the expectation that others can read your silence perfectly from a tilt of the shoulders or a frozen expression; being at a loss for words to explain how you’re feeling – that places this family on a teetering cliff. They try to forget the past, as if not mentioning those bad events means that they never happened.
Ng also explores the conflict between the past, the present and the future. The novel is written in such a way that the timeline jumps around without feeling disjointed, and events slot into gaps to fill them perfectly and explain other events.
The shame of the past, the silence in the present and the expectations of the future crush the characters individually in their own ways. However, I hope that the future family would be able to move forward and heal…
I can relate to Lydia, a good girl who has secrets from when she is eleven months old. She is crushed by the forceful expectations of her parents yet tries to please them as best she could to make them happy. She is the unwilling, unsteady centre of the family.
Ng explores how so many factors can make people the way they are: the parents of parents who’ve never seen their grandchildren can scar them in such a way that their characters are dangerously flawed.
In summary, the author tackles the conflict between fitting in and standing out; the dangerous dynamics that occur if things are expected to be known without saying; the complexity and mystery of our damaged characters that nobody else can truly fully fathom.
The family falls apart but slowly learns to mend whilst learning to start afresh but without blanking out the past. It made me cry.
This book affected me in a deep way – it showed me the fragility of mind, of spirit, of happiness, of family. The depths of characters were breathtaking.
Most strikingly, there were a lot of mentions of tomorrows but there are constant reminders that tomorrow doesn’t always come.
You’re very welcome to join in the #FridayBookShare! The rules are in my first one.
P.S. Thank you guys for 500 followers, I honestly can’t believe that this milestone has come already and that people are actually willing to read these posts, long or short. It means a lot to me 🙂
Although this is meant to be every Friday, I will probably just post them once I’ve finished a book. What do you think of this book? Do you feel the weight of family? Let me know 🙂