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Everything I Never Told You
Cover of Everything I Never Told You
Everything I Never Told You
A Novel
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"A deep, heartfelt portrait of a family." — Alexander Chee, The New York Times Book Review"Lydia is dead. But they don't know this yet." So begins this exquisite novel about a Chinese American...
"A deep, heartfelt portrait of a family." — Alexander Chee, The New York Times Book Review"Lydia is dead. But they don't know this yet." So begins this exquisite novel about a Chinese American...
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  • "A deep, heartfelt portrait of a family." — Alexander Chee, The New York Times Book Review

    "Lydia is dead. But they don't know this yet." So begins this exquisite novel about a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio. Lydia is the favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee, and her parents are determined that she will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue. But when Lydia's body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together is destroyed, tumbling them into chaos. A profoundly moving story of family, secrets, and longing, Everything I Never Told You is both a gripping page-turner and a sensitive family portrait, uncovering the ways in which mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, and husbands and wives struggle, all their lives, to understand one another.
    "Wonderfully moving...A beautifully crafted study of dysfunction and grief." — The Boston Globe
 

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Excerpts-

  • From the book ***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected proof***

    Copyright © 2014 Celeste Ng

    one

    Lydia is dead. But they don't know this yet. 1977, May 3, six thirty in the morning, no one knows anything but this innocuous fact: Lydia is late for breakfast. As always, next to her cereal bowl, her mother has placed a sharpened pencil and Lydia's physics homework, six problems flagged with small ticks. Driving to work, Lydia's father nudges the dial toward WXKP, Northwest Ohio's Best News Source, vexed by the crackles of static. On the stairs, Lydia's brother yawns, still twined in the tail end of his dream. And in her chair in the corner of the kitchen, Lydia's sister hunches moon-eyed over her cornflakes, sucking them to pieces one by one, waiting for Lydia to appear. It's she who says, at last, "Lydia's taking a long time today."

    Upstairs, Marilyn opens her daughter's door and sees the bed unslept in: neat hospital corners still pleated beneath the comforter, pillow still fluffed and convex. Nothing seems out of place. Mustard-colored corduroys tangled on the floor, a single rainbow-striped sock. A row of science fair ribbons on the wall, a postcard of Einstein. Lydia's duffel bag crumpled on the floor of the closet. Lydia's green bookbag slouched against her desk. Lydia's bottle of Baby Soft atop the dresser, a sweet, powdery, loved-baby scent still in the air. But no Lydia.

    Marilyn closes her eyes. Maybe, when she opens them, Lydia will be there, covers pulled over her head as usual, wisps of hair trailing from beneath. A grumpy lump bundled under the bedspread that she'd somehow missed before. I was in the bathroom, Mom. I went downstairs for some water. I was lying right here all the time. Of course, when she looks, nothing has changed. The closed curtains glow like a blank television screen.

    Downstairs, she stops in the doorway of the kitchen, a hand on each side of the frame. Her silence says everything. "I'll check outside," she says at last. "Maybe for some reason—" She keeps her gaze trained on the floor as she heads for the front door, as if Lydia's footprints might be crushed into the hall runner.

    Nath says to Hannah, "She was in her room last night. I heard her radio playing. At eleven thirty." He stops, remembering that he had not said goodnight.

    "Can you be kidnapped if you're sixteen?" Hannah asks. Nath prods at his bowl with a spoon. Cornflakes wilt and sink into clouded milk.

    Their mother steps back into the kitchen, and for one glorious fraction of a second Nath sighs with relief: there she is, Lydia, safe and sound. It happens sometimes—their faces are so alike you'd see one in the corner of your eye and mistake her for the other: the same elfish chin and high cheekbones and left-cheek dimple, the same thin-shouldered build. Only the hair color is different, Lydia's ink-black instead of their mother's honey-blond. He and Hannah take after their father—once a woman stopped the two of them in the grocery store and asked, "Chinese?" and when they said yes, not wanting to get into halves and wholes, she'd nodded sagely. "I knew it," she said. "By the eyes." She'd tugged the corner of each eye outward with a fingertip. But Lydia, defying genetics, somehow has her mother's blue eyes, and they know this is one more reason she is their mother's favorite. And their father's, too.

    Then Lydia raises one hand to her brow and becomes his mother again.

    "The car's still here," she says, but Nath had known it would be. Lydia can't drive; she doesn't even have a learner's permit yet. Last week she'd surprised them all by failing the exam, and their father wouldn't even let...

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from April 14, 2014
    This emotionally involving debut novel explores themes of belonging using the story of the death of a teenage girl, Lydia, from a mixed-race family in 1970s Ohio. Lydia is the middle and favorite child of Marilyn Walker, a white Virginian, and James Lee, a first-generation Chinese-American. Marilyn and James meet in 1957, when she is a premed at Radcliffe and he, a graduate student, is teaching one of her classes. The two fall in love and marry, over the objections of Marilyn’s mother, whose comment on their interracial relationship is succinct: “It’s not right.” Marilyn gets pregnant and gives up her dream of becoming a doctor, devoting her life instead to raising Lydia and the couple’s other two children, Nathan and Hannah. Then Marilyn abruptly moves out of their suburban Ohio home to go back to school, only to return before long. When Lydia is discovered dead in a nearby lake, the family begins to fall apart. As the police try to decipher the mystery of Lydia’s death, her family realize that they didn’t know her at all. Lydia is remarkably imagined, her unhappy teenage life crafted without an ounce of cliché. Ng’s prose is precise and sensitive, her characters richly drawn. Agent: Julie Barer, Barer Literary.

  • Kirkus

    June 1, 2014
    Ng's nuanced debut novel begins with the death of a teenage girl and then uses the mysterious circumstances of her drowning as a springboard to dive into the troubled waters beneath the calm surface of her Chinese-American family.When 16-year-old Lydia Lee fails to show up at breakfast one spring morning in 1977, and her body is later dragged from the lake in the Ohio college town where she and her biracial family don't quite fit in, her parents-blonde homemaker Marilyn and Chinese-American history professor James-older brother and younger sister get swept into the churning emotional conflicts and currents they've long sought to evade. What, or who, compelled Lydia-a promising student who could often be heard chatting happily on the phone; was doted on by her parents; and enjoyed an especially close relationship with her Harvard-bound brother, Nath-to slip away from home and venture out in a rowboat late at night when she had always been deathly afraid of water, refusing to learn to swim? The surprising answers lie deep beneath the surface, and Ng, whose stories have won awards including the Pushcart Prize, keeps an admirable grip on the narrative's many strands as she expertly explores and exposes the Lee family's secrets: the dreams that have given way to disappointment; the unspoken insecurities, betrayals and yearnings; the myriad ways the Lees have failed to understand one another and, perhaps, themselves. These long-hidden, quietly explosive truths, weighted by issues of race and gender, slowly bubble to the surface of Ng's sensitive, absorbing novel and reverberate long after its final page.Ng's emotionally complex debut novel sucks you in like a strong current and holds you fast until its final secrets surface.

    COPYRIGHT(2014) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Library Journal

    January 1, 2014
    In 1970s Ohio, blue-eyed Marilyn wants daughter Lydia to become a doctor, while Lydia's father, Chinese American James Lee, wants her to be popular. Now she's at the bottom of a lake. Ng won the prestigious Hopwood Award from the University of Michigan's writing program, so look out.

    Copyright 2014 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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