Celeste Ng’s debut novel Everything I Never Told You begins with a blunt statement of fact: “Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.” From there, pasts focus and encroach upon the present, and the cracks that split the Chinese-American Lee family widen, becoming the central plot of this gripping debut novel.
Lydia Lee is James and Marilyn’s star child, the girl on whom they pin their own unrealized hopes: in James’s case, to be popular; in Marilyn’s case, to become a doctor. The mixed-race Lees struggle to fit in, or even feel comfortable, in affluent, small-town Ohio, where James teaches and Marilyn stays at home. So when Lydia is found dead in a nearby lake, grief tilts the Lees’ carefully assembled equilibrium into total turmoil. Lydia’s family—her mother, father, brother, and sister—struggle, just as they always have, but somehow now under a brighter light, to figure out not only each other, but also their family’s place in a hostile society.
Not a murder mystery, Everything I Never Told You is instead a deftly-navigated examination of the permutations a family can take, and the unspoken histories that can define a family’s future.
Everything I Never Told You is a New York Times bestseller and has been named a best book of the year by numerous outlets. Celeste Ng grew up in a family of scientists in the Midwest. She received an MFA from the University of Michigan. Her work has appeared in OneStory, TriQuarterly, Bellevue Literary Review, and the Kenyon Review Online. She has also won a Pushcart Prize. Ng lives in Massachusetts.
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