|Everything I Never Told You
5 / 5
"Lydia is dead. But they don't know this yet."
A haunting debut novel about a mixed-race family living in 1970s Ohio and the tragedy that will either be their undoing or their salvation.
Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet . . . So begins the story of this exquisite debut novel, about a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio. Lydia is the favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee; their middle daughter, a girl who inherited her mother’s bright blue eyes and her father’s jet-black hair. Her parents are determined that Lydia will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue—in Marilyn’s case that her daughter become a doctor rather than a homemaker, in James’s case that Lydia be popular at school, a girl with a busy social life and the center of every party.
When Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together tumbles into chaos, forcing them to confront the long-kept secrets that have been slowly pulling them apart. James, consumed by guilt, sets out on a reckless path that may destroy his marriage. Marilyn, devastated and vengeful, is determined to find a responsible party, no matter what the cost. Lydia’s older brother, Nathan, is certain that the neighborhood bad boy Jack is somehow involved. But it’s the youngest of the family—Hannah—who observes far more than anyone realizes and who may be the only one who knows the truth about what happened.
A profoundly moving story of family, history, and the meaning of home, Everything I Never Told You is both a gripping page-turner and a sensitive family portrait, exploring the divisions between cultures and the rifts within a family, and uncovering the ways in which mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, and husbands and wives struggle, all their lives, to understand one another.
This book was amazing. Nothing like I'd expected - and I certainly didn't expect it to be a five-star book for me, but that was a pleasant surprise. This author is just incredible. She writes her characters so well.
I read this book a while ago now (I finished it about a month before writing this post, unfortunately) so I don't have as good a recollection of the story as I would like by now, but I do still recall why I rated it so highly. The novel explored the relationships between an interracial family in the 1970s, one which fosters strange imbalances: the middle daughter unwittingly takes on the hopes and dreams that her parents had always wanted but never found for themselves. They project their need onto Lydia, and the poor girl struggles constantly to be what they want from her, while the other two siblings regularly fly under the parents' radar. It's a tragic story of need and generational expectations, and I can't recommend it highly enough. This book is unique, very true, and incredibly well written. The family members are all revealed to have their own (often heartbreaking) motivations, and the author just wrote all of their struggles (both with each other, and internal ones) with such real emotion, such real personality. Some of my favorite parts were those which explained the parents' backstories, as they really revealed so much about the family's current predicament. I don't want to talk too much about the specifics of this book (if you couldn't tell with my vague writing), but I want to encourage EVERYONE to read this incredible novel about family and love and how to find happiness.
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