The backstory: Everything I Never Told You, Celeste Ng's first novel, is a 2014 New York Times Notable Book.
My thoughts: I had an e-galley of this book that I didn't get to this summer (when I was very, very pregnant.) When Amazon named it the best book of 2014, I knew I had to start it immediately. Thankfully, the week before, Ford had picked it for the next free audiobook in the Ford Audiobook Club (If you're on GoodReads and haven't joined this group--do. A free audiobook about once a month? So fun! The current pick, Tim Curry's narration of A Christmas Carol, is next in my audio queue.) I ended up listening to this one rather than reading it, and I'm so glad I did (although it's probably also lovely in print.)
Beginning with the lines "Lydia is dead. But they don't know this yet..." firmly entrenches the reader in the narrative of this family. As the title indicates, they have their share of things they haven't told each other. Most aren't secrets necessarily, because I wouldn't call many of them salacious. Although Everything I Never Told You begins with Lydia's death and the mystery of how she died is the driving force of the narrative, I found myself most drawn to everything else. The opening chapters alternate between the day Lydia's body is discovered and the early days of her parents' relationship. As I came to understand how this family came to be, I was enchanted with each member of it.
As the title indicates, there are many things unsaid, yet these things are mostly ordinary or typical. Most aren't major bombshells by themselves. Instead, these things build on each other to create a complicated portrait of a family. The reader is in the unique position to see things from each of their perspectives, and the result is a haunting window into a family facing a tragedy, yet their lives are filled with other, smaller tragedies. It's those tragedies, rather than Lydia's death, that still have me thinking.
The verdict: From it's haunting opening lines until the very end, Everything I Never Told You is a beautiful and tragic story of a family. Ng beautifully explores the sexism an racism, sometimes subtle and other times not, a mixed-race Chinese-American family faces in Ohio in the 1970s. It's a remarkably accomplished novel. Knowing it's also a debut novel excites me greatly.
Audio thoughts: Cassandra Campbell is one of my favorite audiobook narrators, and her performance with Everything I Never Told You was excellent. She beautifully captured the haunting tone of this narrative and made each character come alive through their feelings.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Length: 10 hours 1 minute (298 pages)
Publication date: June 26, 2014
Source: Ford Audiobook Club
Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy Everything I Never Told You from Amazon (Kindle edition.)
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