Everything I Never Told You isn’t the type of book I normally read, and nor was it what I expected at all – thinking I was getting some kind of murder mystery, what I got was a quietly devastating portrayal of a family hurting from all of its repressed hopes, dreams, desires and resentments.
Lydia, the beloved eldest child of Marilyn and James Lee, is found dead in the lake near their home. Blond haired blue eyed Marilyn had always wanted to become a doctor, but gave up her dream when she married first generation Chinese-American James, who’s struggled to feel like he fits in for his entire life.
Marilyn and James have poured all of their hopes and ambitions onto Lydia – Marilyn is convinced that Lydia wants to become the doctor Marilyn aways wanted to be, while James wants nothing more than for his daughter to avoid the otherness of his own youth and to have lots of friends. And despite Lydia’s outward show of perfect compliance, her death forces the family to confront the fact that Lydia was actually none of the things they were moulding her to be.
All the while Lydia’s mostly ignored siblings, Nath and Hannah, are also dealing with the aftermath of her death and finding their new places in the world without her, while learning that there are things that they too have repressed or reshaped to better fit in a home where most of their parents emotional space was taken up by their big sister.
I spent half the book wondering if I was really that into it, and so I was surprised to find myself spending the latter half wiping away tears while wanting to hug Nath and Hannah. And while I haven’t ever usually tended to seek out family dramas, I certainly won’t avoid them in the future.