BOOK REVIEW: Everything I Never Told You – by Celeste Ng

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Title: Everything I Never Told You
Author: Celeste Ng
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery
First published: June 26th 2014
Finished reading: January 17th 2016
Pages: 304
Rating 3qqq

“The things that go unsaid are often the things that eat at you–whether because you didn’t get to have your say, or because the other person never got to hear you and really wanted to.”

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Everything I Never Told You has been recommended to me in the past and after rereading the blurb earlier this month I decided I was in the mood for this historical fiction read with a dash of mystery. Unfortunately, this novel by Celeste Ng turned out to be quite a slow read and I didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would. First of all, the blurb is slightly misleading and the main story is more about the family history and how Lydia’s parents met than about the missing girl herself… Which alone isn’t a such bad thing, but I didn’t really like the mother or father as a character and the story itself reads really slow as well. I liked the 1950s and 1970s setting and the fact that the novel touches the subject of racial discrimination. Finding a Chinese American family living in a small town in Ohio during those times is rare, and unfortunately it’s all too true that what people don’t know they often don’t fully accept… Still, somehow this story just didn’t manage to convince me completely. The actions of the mother and father, the lack of background on Lydia and how things happened… For me, there was too much focus on the past instead of on the present (1970s). Everything I Never Told You might still be a great read for those who are more interested in a realistic fiction story and a family portrait; just don’t set your expectations too high before starting it.

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When Marilyn decided to marry her professor James Lee, she already knew people were probably going to gossip about the couple. Mixed racial marriages weren’t all that common in the 1950s and generally frowned upon, and even her own mother disaproves… But Marilyn takes James as her husband anyway. Together they form the only Chinese American family living in a small town in Ohio and raise three kids together. Marilyn has been restless though because she had to give up her dream to be a doctor in order to have her oldest child Lydia… Her mother had always wanted her to find a husband and be a housewife, but Marilyn thought differently. Now she ended up with exactly the life her mother had planned for her, and secretly she is looking for a way out. When her daughter Lydia disappears and is found dead in the local lake, the whole family falls apart… And Marilyn doesn’t know if she can fight her feelings any longer.

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It sounds like a very intriguing story and it partly is, but personally I found myself underwhelmed by this story. I had really high expectations for Everything I Never Told You.Sadly, it turned out to be quite a slow read and more of a family portrait with a lot of drama and the actual event of Lydia missing was driven to the background. It’s not a bad read and I know some of you loved this book, but unfortunately I didn’t have the same feelings…

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10 thoughts on “BOOK REVIEW: Everything I Never Told You – by Celeste Ng

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