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Everything I Never Told You: A Novel Hardcover – June 26, 2014

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Press HC, The; 1ST edition (June 26, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 159420571X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594205712
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.6 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (167 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,598 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

An Amazon Best Book of the Month, July 2014: Lydia is dead. From the first sentence of Celeste Ng’s stunning debut, we know that the oldest daughter of the Chinese-American Lee family has died. What follows is a novel that explores alienation, achievement, race, gender, family, and identity--as the police must unravel what has happened to Lydia, the Lee family must uncover the sister and daughter that they hardly knew. There isn’t a false note in this book, and my only concern in describing my profound admiration for Everything I Never Told You is that it might raise unachievable expectations in the reader. But it’s that good. Achingly, precisely, and sensitively written. --Chris Schluep

From Booklist

*Starred Review* A teenage girl goes missing and is later found to have drowned in a nearby lake, and suddenly a once tight-knit family unravels in unexpected ways. As the daughter of a college professor and his stay-at-home wife in a small Ohio town in the 1970s, Lydia Lee is already unwittingly part of the greater societal changes going on all around her. But Lydia suffers from pressure that has nothing to do with tuning out and turning on. Her father is an American born of first-generation Chinese immigrants, and his ethnicity, and hers, make them conspicuous in any setting. Her mother is white, and their interracial marriage raises eyebrows and some intrusive charges of miscegenation. More troubling, however, is her mother’s frustration at having given up medical school for motherhood, and how she blindly and selfishly insists that Lydia follow her road not taken. The cracks in Lydia’s perfect-daughter foundation grow slowly but erupt suddenly and tragically, and her death threatens to destroy her parents and deeply scar her siblings. Tantalizingly thrilling, Ng’s emotionally complex debut novel captures the tension between cultures and generations with the deft touch of a seasoned writer. Ng will be one to watch. --Carol Haggas

More About the Author

Celeste Ng is the author of the novel EVERYTHING I NEVER TOLD YOU. She grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Shaker Heights, Ohio, in a family of scientists. Her fiction and essays have appeared in One Story, TriQuarterly, Bellevue Literary Review, and elsewhere, and she is a recipient of the Pushcart Prize. Currently, she lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with her husband and son. To learn more about her and her work, visit her website at http://celesteng.com or follow her on Twitter: @pronounced_ing.

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Customer Reviews

Many chapters in this novel focus on just one character, telling the story from his or her point of view.
K. Blaine
The author's writing flows beautifully and she did a wonderful job of developing the characters psychologically.
I didn't want to finish it because I know it's gonna be a long time before I will read another book this good.
Julene Robinson

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

60 of 62 people found the following review helpful By James Hiller VINE VOICE on April 26, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
How is it possible that this is a first novel? It is so exquisite, so marvelously perfect, so regally quiet and elegant that surely, it must come from the hands of a old soul author. But no. This is Celeste Ng's first novel, and in it, she has painted such a deeply felt, original story. This book shall remain with me for the rest of my days.

Everything I Never Told You is a story of secrets, of love, of longing, of lies, of race, of identity, and knowledge. The story begins with the death of Lydia, daughter of Marilyn and James, which is told in the first sentence and slowly revealed through the book. Why she did it drives the narrative, and yet, this story is bigger, grander than this central mystery. Marilyn wanted to defy society's narrow vision of her life and become a doctor, while James is trying to overcome humble beginnings and a society judging him based on his race. Together, they conventions, marry and create a family. Nathan, oldest son on his way to Harvard, Lydia, the middle sister and favorite one, and Hannah, truly growing up invisible. Together, Ng has created a complex, complicated family that rings so true on every page. There isn't a false note in the story.

Perhaps the power of this book lies in the writing of Ng. Her prose is lyrical and light, allowing you to float in the scenes, often between characters, as if you are a literary ghost spying on these people. She moves her story along when it needs to, and allows certain scenes to linger when needed. The effect is magnificent. She also embues the realities of racism, that appropriately jar the reader, which at first seem to be just a "matter of the times" (she painfully uses the word Oriental to describe people) but in reality plays a bigger role in the story. I appreciated it.
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31 of 32 people found the following review helpful By K. Blaine VINE VOICE on June 22, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I am stunned that this is Celeste Ng's first novel. I was instantly drawn into this book, with its beautifully drawn characters and superb writing. On its surface, the story is a mystery: What led to the death of Lydia Lee, a sixteen-year-old honor student with (supposedly) everything to live for? In reality, the mystery goes far deeper, into the lives of each member of the family. By the end of the book, the reader is fully in sympathy with each character.

The novel, which takes place in the late 70s, begins with Lydia's death. Was it murder? Was it suicide? Or was it something else? The reader spends most of the novel thinking one thing, only to be surprised at the end with the truth. The author delves into the lives of each family member: James, the father, who never felt really at home in any situation; Marilyn, the mother, whose dreams were shelved by the demands of marriage, family, and the times; Nathan, the older brother, whose brilliance is overlooked; Lydia, the golden child burdened with all the frustrated aspirations of her parents; and Hannah, the overlooked afterthought of a child, a silent but keen observer of everyone in her family. (I was torn between imagining the author as Lydia or as Hannah; I suspect she is an amalgam of both.)

Many chapters in this novel focus on just one character, telling the story from his or her point of view. The reader is led to an understanding of just how profoundly even the best intentions can go terribly awry. Once again, we see people living out their own frustrated dreams through their children, who may or may not be on board. The term "helicopter parent" comes to mind, though this idea was not in vogue until the 90s.
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33 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Book Nerd on July 9, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
Celeste Ng seems like a talented writer. Her style of writing is fluid and lyrical. For that reason, I really wanted to like this book. Unfortunately, I just couldn’t, primarily because nearly all the characters are so overwhelmingly awful.

I know characters don't need to be good or even likeable to be compelling, but there has to be something to draw you in and make you care about them. That wasn't the case here for me at all. In fact, the adult protagonists are so awful I almost wanted to stop reading at times. The main couple comprises the most self-absorbed, selfish, emotionally abusive parents I've ever encountered. Before the death of beloved Lydia, they turn her into a proxy of themselves and basically ignore their other children. Post-mortem, they become even more entrenched in themselves and their needs and issues and continue their neglect of their children or even take their anger out on them. Toward the end, which hints at happier times for the parents, I didn't even care anymore. They didn't deserve anything better.

My other issue with this novel was its treatment of race. I understand that Ng wanted this to be a treatise on racial differences and the impact prejudice can have on people, but the way she chose to do this was not effective. She was both heavy-handed and uninspiring. She made it seem as if every single person this family encountered had never seen a Chinese person and was prejudiced against them. I find this hard to believe even back in the 1970's. Second, the way she brings up these issues in the book seems heavy-handed. Rather than organically being incorporated into the story, it's almost as if she becomes a professor lecturing her students.
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