CBR11 Bingo Square: Birthday
Originally I wanted to read Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere for the birthday bingo square, but since our library had this book available first, I figured it was worth a read. And it certainly hit on a few soft spots in my heart along the way. Emotions? Yeah, I have those in spades, and this book absolutely brought some of them out.
Everything I Never Told You centers on a mixed-race Chinese American family named the Lee’s in the 1970’s, whose middle daughter Lydia is found having drowned in lake near the Lee’s house. The novel then flits back and forth, through the history of the family and how they relate to one another both before and after this tragic incident. Lydia’s mother is convinced someone else knows something or had a hand in her death, while the police find nothing but evidence that Lydia was a loner and believe she killed herself. Through investigating the family’s histories and the secrets they keep between one another, the tenuous relationships and moments that have defined their lives, they grieve and try to find answers that may not ever come. There were some bare bones similarities to another novel I read earlier this year, Jasper Jones, which I did like, but I think I liked this book more at the end of the day.
This story, at it’s heart, is a lonely one (and I do love me a lonely book or two). It deals greatly with racism, othering, trying to find a place when everyone thinks you are different, and even the loneliness that comes with fitting in if you are doing so in a false manner. It hits on familiar themes of expectations, and of trying to get people to notice you are not okay without directly saying it: why does no one notice? Sometimes people have ways of communicating that don’t require words, but is anyone listening? Or are we so wrapped up in ourselves and our own problems, or perhaps misconstruing a put-on happy face from others as a real one? And further than all that, this reasonably trim book also hits on dreams and goals, the pressure we put on ourselves in life, that which others place upon us, and even a certain pressure to not end up a certain way.
There were a lot of moments in Everything I Never Told You which really hit me because the emotions are extremely real and relatable to me. Is this a novel where a lot happens? Well, not really, so people who look for things that are more plot-based may be disappointed. And truth be told there were sections in this that didn’t catch me as much as others, and in fact felt like they dragged a bit. But the last quarter or so really struck me hard, and being someone who likes reading things that are more introspective, this was up my alley.