Published: June 26th 2014 by Penguin Press
Source: Local Library
Page Count: 304
Genre: Adult, Historical Fiction, Contemporary, Mystery
Synopsis: Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.
So begins this exquisite novel about a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio. Lydia is the favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee, and her parents are determined that she will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue. But when Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together is destroyed, tumbling them into chaos.
A profoundly moving story of family, secrets, and longing, Everything I Never Told You is both a gripping page-turner and a sensitive family portrait, uncovering the ways in which mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, and husbands and wives struggle, all their lives, to understand one another.
Spoiler Free Review:
Going into this book, I’m sure some people, including myself expected a thriller/mystery where huge plot twists took place. Although the mystery aspect is still prominent, what I ultimately took away from this book was how a family dealt with grief. Having never dealt with a huge family death before, this isn’t personal to me. Racism and gender stereotypes are highlighted as well. I took away so much from this story and I really loved it.
The story is told through the entire family’s perspectives and there isn’t any chapter breaks between each perspective. It did get a little confusing when there were jumps from one perspective to the next. Other than that, I didn’t have any issues with the format or writing style. It was extremely addicting and fast paced. The plot does revolve around Lydia’s murder, but the main story-line is more about the family themselves. The story switches from past and present and you get to see how everything ties together.
Some people described this book as more psychological and I definitely agree. There’s a lot of insight on grief and how different family members deal with a family death. Unhealthy coping mechanisms is very prominent with each of them. In addition, this story goes deeper and discusses the hardships of a person of color. James struggled with his identity his entire life and attempted to fit in. He also tried to force his children in fitting in as well. It really goes to show how it was living in an interracial family at the time. Sexism is also a prevalent topic as well. Marilyn can be considered a feminist, she tries desperately to not be like her mother and wants her daughter to receive an education.
The characters were very complex and pretty relatable at times. James was my least favorite mostly because one of his actions was a huge turn-off for me. (spoiler alert: He cheats on his wife. One of my least favorite parts was how they first treated their children. I am clearly not a parent, but I couldn’t help feel angry on how their “favorite” was Lydia. Obviously, this was done on purpose and it was meant to make you feel angry. I could relate to both Nathan and Hannah. Being the youngest sibling, I know the feeling of being “The Forgotten Child.” My parents weren’t ever neglectful, but I was more or less looked over because I was the least of the problems. Nathan also consonantly tries to please and impress his parents which is something I’ve tried to do before as well. I really did find the characters to be really interesting perspectives to read from.
Overall, Everything I Never Told You was a very though provoking story. It really did pack a punch and had me thinking on the various ways people cope with death. How it can cause a family to be torn apart and sometimes they can be brought back together. For my very first read of 2017, this book evoked a lot of emotion out of me. I was nearly in tears at the end (on my school bus) and I am not a book crier. I absolutely loved this story and would highly recommend it. 🙂