Grafton Public Library

Review: Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

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everything i never told you


This is not a happy book, but perhaps one of the most well-written I have ever read. It touches on themes of grief, the desire to belong, the mixing of cultures, living vicariously through others and being ahead of one’s time. These are wrapped up in succinct, but emotionally evocative, prose so beautifully rendered that I found myself wanting to re read many of the passages out loud.
The story takes place during the 1950’s ‘60’s and 70’s and revolves around the marriage and family life of a first generation Chinese-American man and his WASP wife in a mid-western small town. His lifelong desire to fit in to American culture and her lifelong regrets about not pursuing a medical career set the stage for conflict with both of their families and consequences for their children.
The first line of the book tells you their daughter has drowned under apparently mysterious circumstances. That sets the stage for the couple to look back on both their lives, informing us to why they act the way they do. In some chapters we get their children’s point of view, including the one who has died.
As the reader, it is clear to see the mistakes they have made, and continue to make when they fail time and again to communicate and to appreciate how their actions are doing harm to themselves and the ones they love. That is part of the tension of the story. You just want to tell them to stop!
Interesting, heart-rending, thoughtful and beautifully written.

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