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Title: Everything I Never Told You
Genre: Adult Fiction
Narrator: Cassandra Campbell
Publisher: Blackstone Audio, June, 2014
Length: 10 hours
Source: Audiobook Jukebox‘s reviewer program
About the Book: (from Good Reads.com)
Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet . . . So begins the story of this exquisite debut novel, about a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio. Lydia is the favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee; their middle daughter, a girl who inherited her mother’s bright blue eyes and her father’s jet-black hair. Her parents are determined that Lydia will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue—in Marilyn’s case that her daughter become a doctor rather than a homemaker, in James’s case that Lydia be popular at school, a girl with a busy social life and the center of every party.
When Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together tumbles into chaos, forcing them to confront the long-kept secrets that have been slowly pulling them apart. James, consumed by guilt, sets out on a reckless path that may destroy his marriage. Marilyn, devastated and vengeful, is determined to find a responsible party, no matter what the cost. Lydia’s older brother, Nathan, is certain that the neighborhood bad boy Jack is somehow involved. But it’s the youngest of the family—Hannah—who observes far more than anyone realizes and who may be the only one who knows the truth about what happened.
A profoundly moving story of family, history, and the meaning of home, Everything I Never Told You is both a gripping page-turner and a sensitive family portrait, exploring the divisions between cultures and the rifts within a family, and uncovering the ways in which mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, and husbands and wives struggle, all their lives, to understand one another
Book Trailer for Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
About the Author:
Celeste Ng is the author of the novel Everything I Never Told You (June 2014, Penguin Press). She grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Shaker Heights, Ohio, in a family of scientists. Celeste attended Harvard University and earned an MFA from the University of Michigan (now the Helen Zell Writers’ Program at the University of Michigan), where she won the Hopwood Award. Her fiction and essays have appeared in One Story, TriQuarterly, Bellevue Literary Review, the Kenyon Review Online, and elsewhere, and she is a recipient of the Pushcart Prize.
Currently she lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with her husband and son, where she teaches fiction writing at Grub Street and is at work on a second novel and a collection of short stories.
About the Narrator:
Cassandra Campbell is an actress, director, and teacher as well as an accomplished voice-over artist. Voice credits include numerous books on tape, documentaries and commercials in both Italian and English. As an actress she has performed in New York at the Public Theatre, the Mint Theatre, and the Clurman as well as many others. Regional work includes StageWest, The Berkshire Theatre Festival, Millmountain Theatre, and The Baltimore Shakespeare Festival. She currently lives in Los Angeles where she a faculty member at the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts.
My Review: Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng is the story of a Chinese/American family in the 1970’s in small town Ohio. James and Marilyn meet in college and start a relationship despite their different cultural backgrounds. Marilyn falls pregnant and the couple gets married. Marilyn gives up her dream of becoming a Dr for her growing family. This is a sacrifice that Marilyn had a hard time move past. James is always wanting to fit in with their community in Ohio. He wants his children to have a different childhood than he did. He wants them to feel accepted by their school peers and community.
The novel starts out informing the reader that “Lydia is dead”. While the reader knows this fact, the family does not. The reader is there as the parents discover the fate of their eldest daughter, the child they each had aspirations for. The reader is along on the journey as the family unravels at the lose of a child. Celeste Ng’s telling of the story of Lee family from the point of the death of their child, through the emotional aftermath, is a great structure for this type of story. Ng develops the characters in Everything I Never Told You in great detail. I would have like if the development of Lydia would have been as detailed. At the end I was left wanting to know more about the final moments and thoughts of Lydia.
The author does a wonderful job of delving into the various ways in which James and Marilyn as parents deal with Lydia’s death as well as how Nath and Hannah deal with the death of a sibling. The reader begins to understand the family’s fragile dynamics.
The narration of Everything I Never Told You by Cassandra Campbell was very enjoyable. She keeps a good pace and gives each character their own voice in a natural sounding way.
My Rating: 3.5 – I would rate Everything I Never Told You higher if I found the ending more satisfying. Everything I Never Told you is a cautionary tale about the danger of projecting your unfilled needs and dreams upon your children. Celeste Ng skillfully addresses themes such as expectations, dreams, lost chances, family secrets and cultural isolation. I applaud the author for a decent debut novel and look forward to checking out additional publications by Celeste Ng.
My Rating Scale: 1 – didn’t like it; 2 – it was ok; 3 – liked it; 4 – really liked it; 5 – it was amazing
**Disclosure – Audio book Everything I Never Told You was received from Blackstone Audio in exchange for a fair review.