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.
Some crime devotees may find the novel short on twists and deaths; Ng is most impressive in the less generic novelistic skill of the piercing detail – a single stray novelty sock on the floor of a teenager’s room, a toe smudge on a wall where a young couple made love decades before in a bedroom they had just painted.
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These are quibbles, perhaps, a sign of this reader wanting more. “Everything I Never Told You” is a beautifully crafted study of dysfunction and grief. Yes, it may miss a few notes, but the ones it does play will resonate with anyone who has ever had a family drama, never mind a gift.
Read the full review on Boston Globe
Still, both Sonnenberg and Ng have written compelling debuts, presenting two unforgettable families stumbling along with their relentless humanity, surviving. Both novels reveal a dialectical truth about families; they are places of joyous hope, and also crushing loneliness.
Read the full review on LA Review Of Books
While Ng unveils the complex inner life of our dead 16-year-old heroine, she deftly weaves in the equally multifaceted inner lives of her family, sliding back and forth in time and place.
Read the full review on Female Gaze
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