Thursday, October 30, 2014

Everything I Never Told You

Ng, C. (2014). Everything I Never Told You. NY: Penguin Press.  Also by Blackstone Audio, narrated by Cassandra Campbell.

Adult / Realistic Fiction / Mystery that's not the focus

I gave this book 3.5 out of 5 Stars

Oh the secrets, the denial, the longing for love and acceptance that spans generations in this book.

The writing is eloquent and flowed with beautiful descriptions and figurative language. To Ng's credit, her style was such that it kept me interested, and when I did have to put it aside, I was anxiously awaiting the next chance to read/listen to it again.

The premise of the story is unclear if you don't read the jacket. The opening line tells us that Lydia Lee is dead, but no one yet knows it. A mystery? Yes, but by the end of the book, knowing the details of how Lydia died are really secondary to the back stories -- and the way back stories - of the characters. The story leaps from decade to decade, which sometimes caused confusion for me, as did the telling of the story from multiple perspectives. (though admittedly, I liked knowing exactly what the characters were thinking and feeling). For some, this might be too much information, as the reader really doesn't have to interpret much; however, there is much to ponder: what it means to be different, how parents shape their children's lives, sexism, racism. . .

Though I liked the ambitions and dreams of the young Marilyn and James, our main characters, I really didn't like the adults they became. I had little respect for Marilyn, whose selfishness and projections really hurt and mentally affected the other people in her life. Of course, I sympathized with her situations, but I could not dismiss that it was her own choices that put her in those situations. James disappointed me because by sharing his own life experiences, he could have helped his children overcome the same obstacles. Also disappointing was in how James found solace after Lydia's death; it didn't really fit what we knew of his personality. The discrimination and isolation both Marilyn and James experienced was painful, but it was not an excuse for the emotional (sometimes physical) agony which their children endured -- agony that could have been assuaged by the gentle touch, kindness, or encouragement two parents never gave to their children.

And those poor children -- Ng really tugs at the readers' heartstrings with the rawness, anger, and hopelessness these kids feel, when they desperately love their parents and want nothing more than acceptance and security, neither of which is given. Possibly Ng's best written character is the youngest child, Hannah, who is so perceptive and exceptional and patient, but completely ignored.

There was an additional subplot thrown in towards the end that really could have enriched the story; however, readers were given too little information, too fast, and the writing was too vague for it to boost the plot. The ending was satisfactory, but be prepared to be left with some questions and without some clarifications that would have taken it to the next level.

Thank you to Penguin for providing me a free eBook and also to Ford Audio Book Club for a free audio copy in exchange for my honest review -- the only kind I give. It was nice to have both formats so I didn't have to break from the book much - spoiled rotten!


  1. This is my book club's pick for next month, so I was really intrigued to read your take on it. I'll have to check back in when I'm done!! :)

    1. Please do -- I am interested to know your take on it!