Review: Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng


Title: Everything I Never Told You

Author: Celeste Ng

Published: Penguin Press June 2014

Status: Read from May 24 to 25, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy Penguin/Edleweiss}

My Thoughts:

A debut novel from Celeste Ng, Everything I Never Told You explores the themes of belonging, identity and family. When sixteen year old Lydia Lee disappears one night, her parents and siblings are at a loss to explain her absence. Days later, her body is discovered in a neighborhood lake and her family is mired in grief as they try to make sense of Lydia’s fate.

Everything I Never Told You is not a mystery so much as a domestic drama that exposes the frailties of the Lee family unit in the aftermath of tragedy. Ng reveals the dysfunctional family dynamic from the perspectives of each member, exploring the complexities of the relationships between husband and wife, parent and child, and siblings.
Tracing the history of the family from James’s and Marilyn’s respective childhoods, to their courtship and marriage provides the context for the manner in which they relate to their three children. Nath is the eldest, about to graduate and leave home to study at Harvard, eight year old Hannah observes her world quietly, largely ignored by all, while Lydia, the favoured child, is the repository of her parents thwarted ambitions. Her bewildering absence from the family is the catalyst for outing the secret resentments, yearnings and guilt each hold.

Racial and gender issues are strong themes within the story. The Lee family is multiracial, James is first generation Chinese-American, while Marilyn is a blonde, blue eyed Caucasian, which highlights issues such as identity and belonging. Being set prior to the 1970’s, Marilyn struggles with domesticity versus ambition, affecting the way in which she relates to her children, especially Lydia.

Everything I Never Told You is a poignant portrait of a family in crisis, beautifully observed and well told. I found it an interesting read but not as compelling I hoped.


Available to Purchase from

Penguin Press I AmazonUS I BookDepository


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