Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng is a compelling dissection of circumstances surrounding the death of a young girl. Rippling out into her family’s carefully crafted life, Lydia Lee’s mysterious death is a boulder dropped into a still lake. The story – though motivated by the death – is truly about examining our interactions with each other, and especially with our families. Ng illustrates the massive impact a slight action or overheard word can have on those around us, and it’s chilling. She marries external tragedy and strife with internal motivations and harbored secrets to reveal a humble, human portrait of a family struggling to fit into a world that only wants to reject them.
Ng’s unusual prose moves swiftly and seamlessly through narrators, sometimes switching the point of view mid-paragraph. Thus the reader feels as if they are intimately grasping the tale from every angle; they are capable of seeing the effect of a single moment on multiple characters.
Everything is a novel which defies description because it is simply about complicated lives, which seemed stable, only until tragedy exposes frailty, weakness, and, ultimately, love. I recommend this novel if you have plenty of time in a few days to devote to it, to stay completely engrossed in the story. It’s a very quick read and quite moving. If you’re looking for a mystery or murder novel, without a bevy of psychological insight into the impact of death, I would advise against Everything. Overall, I enjoyed Ng’s insights, her unusual writing approach, and her captivating story.