|Everything I Never Told You
4.5 / 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.
I was pleasantly surprised how much i liked this book. It wasn't on my radar at all but Arianna and her sister Bethany gave it such high reviews, I had to jump on the bandwagon (Check our what Arianna thought). It helped that this book was selected for the short list of the Tournament of Books this year AND was a free audiobook from Ford. I usually don't like to audiobook literary fiction, I don't like to miss a word and I know that when listening that tends to happen sometimes. However, this was a pleasant book to listen to, not sure exactly what made it so effortless, the narrator maybe?
EINTY is beautifully written, the characters develop in deep and profound ways and the Author keeps you glued to the page right to the end. There was quite a bit of thoughtful topics brought about a fairly normal story of family struggle. The story starts with a tragedy and goes back and forth from past recollections and memories to how the family copes with that tragedy. The interesting thing is that the story isn't really about the missing daughter, that is more background noise. I liked how the Author tossed in a plot device (missing girl) but didn't focus on that as much as the family dynamic and the character development, this gave a little bit of mystery with a fantastic human touch.
This might have been a five star favorite of mine but I'm not sure how memorable this will be for me. As touched as I was about the struggle the family had to go through and the tug and pull of the sibling love/hate, I didn't connect personally. I enjoyed getting that glimpse into a mixed racial family daily struggle, especially in that time period, but I wasn't too impressed with the cliche love affair the professor/father was having with his student assistant, I rolled my eyes but continued reading since everything else fit so nicely.
EINTY is bold and beautiful but also dirty, we get to see the inner thoughts of each character and the truth behind it is startling but understandable. I was completely enraptured by the mother, who pushes her daughter to do what she had always wanted, which I guess could be prevalent in many mother/daughter relationships. If I had to compare this family to one thing, it would be an avalanche. The family standing on many loose rocks, a few trips over those rocks and everything starts to crumble. The mother leaving, the affair, the hardships of being mixed race, lydia wanting to please her mother so much that she sacrifices her own childhood - worried her mother will leave again. Truly heartbreaking. I would read/listen to this with the knowledge that this might bring a little rain cloud to follow you around, maybe even suggest carrying around some tissues and a puppy?! Yeah, a puppy.
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