Book Review: Everything I Never Told You by Celeste NG

Everything I Never Told YouEverything I Never Told You
Celeste Ng
Penguin Books, May 2015
ISBN 978-0-14-312755-0
Trade Paperbook

Everything I Never Told You is the Fabergé Egg of literature. As a whole it is breathtakingly beautiful. Viewing details closely and from different perspectives; unique gems are revealed. While stunning unto themselves; they become totally transformed when part of the whole.

This is the most heart-breaking book I’ve ever read. Actually painful. As the gloss wears down, and the truth trickles out, the ache began…gnawing in the pit of my stomach….knowing where this was going, hoping that it couldn’t be heading in that direction, but knowing that there really is only one path.

Not to say the story is predictable….the opposite is true….there are clever twists…..much like the old science lesson as to what is really “full”…..there are times when the reader is convinced that the complete story has been strung out, in vivid Technicolor with all of the lines connected….only to feel almost sheepish when Ms. Ng subtly spills secrets that snap the picture into a totally unanticipated focus.

Never have I seen a situation from all sides so clearly. Intuitively, I would expect to have a sure opinion at the end. Knowing all of the facts, it should be simple to identify the “bad” guy(s), the “good” guy(s), the mistakes, people acting selflessly alongside those with only mal intent. Sort it out, point the finger, assign the blame, perhaps feel a bit righteous and move on.

But, this book….it’s like real life and it just doesn’t work like that. The answers don’t shake out neatly into two columns and there are no promises, no guarantees. Each of us has seen a person exert little to no effort, yet reap great rewards and on the other side of the coin, we’ve all seen the person put his whole heart and mind into a goal, but not achieve success.

Ms. Ng puts pen to paper in the most generous, considerate, thoughtful and eloquent way and gives us the Lee family. And immediately takes young Lydia away. After artfully creating the glaring absence, Ms. Ng truly introduces Lydia to us and we begin to understand her, admire her and then feel for her.

Everything I Never Told You is simultaneously a fantastically phenomenal book filled with gorgeous, thoughtful prose and clever, cutting comments; and an imperative example of what is truly heart-breaking. I whole-heartedly recommend this to everyone.

Reviewed by jv poore, October 2015.