Wow, WOW, W O W. This book definitely lived up to the hype and punched me right in the heart with its awesomeness. Celeste Ng combines tight and thrilling storytelling with a beautifully lyrical writing style. The way she shifts from character to character and past to present seamlessly is beyond remarkable. I can’t believe this is a debut novel. It’s the kind of story that seems effortless when you’re reading it, but in hindsight you can see just how complicated it must have been to write.
Maybe I underestimated this book because the premise sounds more than a little tired. A teenaged girl, Lydia, goes missing in a 1970s small town Ohio and nobody can believe it. Her parents, Marilyn and James, are shocked, SHOCKED to find out their favorite child kept secrets from them. But Everything I Never Told You is anything but cliché. This book is a mystery, but more of a social mystery than a criminal mystery. The reader finds out very quickly what happened to Lydia and then the rest of the book unravels the mystery of familial relationships and societal pressures that shaped these characters. And it is thrilling! I could hardly put this book down even though I kept wanting to slow down and savor it.
Each character in this family is fully formed and three-dimensional. They each feel so real that you’re immediately pulled into their tangled relationships with each other. I don’t think I’ve ever read something that does such a good job of capturing the complicated web of family dynamics. How something seemingly benign can affect another person deeply. How two people can both be right in an argument. How outside forces are sometimes inescapable. How a couple can be drawn together and then apart for the very same reason. The characters in this novel aren’t always likable, but they’re always compelling and understandable.
Please do yourself a favor and read this book.