When a book receives buzz, you best believe that it is near the top of my to be read pile. When a debut novel, like Celeste Ng’s Everything I Never Told You Keep, is released with so much praise you should also know that I go into the book with very high expectation. Did Everything I Never Told You live up to the hype? Keep on reading to find out my thoughts and opinions.
It’s 1970’s small town America, where Marilyn and Jame Lee raise their Chinese American children with the possibility that anything is possible if you put the work in. Then, the favourite child, Lydia, disappears in the middle of the night only to be found in the local “lake”, and the fallout unravels the family, its secrets, and the loss that comes about when you lose someone you’ve loved.
A lot of Goodreads reviews gave this book 4 or 5 stars, and I wish I could have done the same, but alas, I can’t.
This book was very reminiscent of The Lovely Bones, except when the reader finds out what exactly happens to Lydia. That reveal felt more of a let down than anything.
Another thing that didn’t really fly with me was James and Louisa’s relationship, given that the affair happen RIGHT AFTER HIS DAUGHTER’S FUNERAL! Like who does that?!
However, there were parts I really enjoyed about this book. One instance was when the narrative would flash back to Marilyn trying desperately to make it as a doctor surrounded by men.
One quote in particular that stood out in these scenes was, “‘And to be honest, Miss Walker, having a girl like you in the classroom would be very distracting to the boys in the class.'” This quote really made me think, because every time I turn on the television or log onto social media it seems like another girl in another town is fighting a school dress code. Usually these posts are followed by a picture of a girl, dressed as girls of today usually do, with a follow-up of some school administrator saying exactly the same thing as the principal in the book.
Another quote, and one that seems quite prevalent in 2016 American was when James was talking about how his dad had immigrated to the land of opportunity under a false name. The quote, “America was a melting pot, but Congress, terrified that the molten mixture was becoming a shade too yellow, had banned all immigrants from China.” I say this is just as relevant today as it was in this 1970’s setting because all you have to do is turn on a radio station, or a television station, or pay attention to a certain presidential candidate to see that fear can always be used to sway people to remain the same.
All in all it was a good book, and maybe one day I’ll read it again with a deeper appreciation, but for now it’s going on my shelf between A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness and This is Where it Ends by Marieke Nijkamp.
Overall Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars.