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.
First of all, two things. 1) This book has the best opening line I read last year. The best. 2) I went for the audiobook for this one and it was absolutely brilliant. So, if you are into audiobooks, and haven’t read this, maybe consider giving this one a go in this format? But if you are not into audiobooks, then go and grab a copy of this book in the format of your choice and READ IT. You are missing out if you don’t. A lot. You are missing out a brilliant family story, with gorgeous descriptions and beatuifully written characters.
The story is set in the 1970’s, and while that’s the present time, we go back and forth between present and past and a lot of maybes in a future that hasn’t come yet – I know I make it sound confusing, but it makes perfect sense once you are reading it. This is the story of the Lee family and their lives – Their every day lives before and after the loss of Lydia – “the favorite one”.
The book opens telling us that Lydia is dead, but that no one in her family knows this yet. At first, I thought that it was going to be a mix of mystery and lots if grief. There are those things, yes, but the book runs so much more deeper than that. So, so much. The author uses Lydia and her death to explore not only that character, but everyone in her family. Her siblings and her parents, her friend Jack, they are all explored through her.She is a platform, and boy it’s wonderfully done.
The author brings up things like sexism, racism, misogyny, and many more things that portray how things were in the 70’s, and it’s also showing us how those things really haven’t changed much nowadays. It’s raw in its honesty, and sentiment, and all of this is done brilliantly. Books like this are an important reminder of why OwnVoices stories are important. Every time I pick one I get that same feeling. We need this. We need to share this, make people curious so they read it.
If you like brilliant family dramas, with a dash of mystery. A story with imperfect people with raw emotions that crawl outside of the pages and nest in your brain and heart. A story full of people with fears and fuck ups. But also so much love and forgiveness… Please, give this one a go.
The ending was really hopeful, and that’s one extra reason why I recommend this book. Like, if there was a sequel to this book I’d be buying it yesterday.
Note: I read this book some time in 2016. My computer was broken and I only got a new one (yay), so this book counts as one of my top 5 reads of 2016. I have endlessly recommended this book and will continue to do so. Please, read this, and then recommend it. Have people know about it and read it.