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Everything I Never Told You
by Celeste Ng
GENRE: Psychological Fiction
A moving family saga that explores the challenges of really knowing those you love. Told through the lens of one biracial family’s tragedy, this touching tale is an exploration of the bonds that define us and the cultural differences that can divide us.
Celeste Ng is the author of three novels, Everything I Never Told You, Little Fires Everywhere, and Our Missing Hearts.
Her first novel, Everything I Never Told You (2014), was a New York Times bestseller, a New York Times Notable Book of 2014, Amazon’s #1 Best Book of 2014, and named a best book of the year by over a dozen publications. Everything I Never Told You was also the winner of the Massachusetts Book Award, the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature, and the ALA’s Alex Award. It has been translated into over thirty languages and is being adapted for the screen.
Her second novel, Little Fires Everywhere (2017) was a #1 New York Times bestseller, a #1 Indie Next bestseller, and Amazon's Best Fiction Book of 2017. It was named a best book of the year by over 25 publications, the winner of the Ohioana Award and the Goodreads Readers Choice Award 2017 in Fiction, and has spent over a year on the New York Times bestseller list. Little Fires Everywhere has been published abroad in more than 30 languages and has been adapted as a limited series on Hulu, starring Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington.
Her third novel, Our Missing Hearts, was published in October in the US, Canada, and the UK, and was an instant New York Times bestseller.
Celeste grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Shaker Heights, Ohio. She graduated from Harvard University and earned an MFA from the University of Michigan (now the Helen Zell Writers’ Program at the University of Michigan). Her fiction and essays have appeared in the New York Times, The Guardian, and many other publications, and she is a recipient of the Pushcart Prize, a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, and a Guggenheim Fellowship, among other honors. - Author's website
/* Starred Review */ A teenage girl goes missing and is later found to have drowned in a nearby lake, and suddenly a once tight-knit family unravels in unexpected ways. As the daughter of a college professor and his stay-at-home wife in a small Ohio town in the 1970s, Lydia Lee is already unwittingly part of the greater societal changes going on all around her. But Lydia suffers from pressure that has nothing to do with tuning out and turning on. Her father is an American born of first-generation Chinese immigrants, and his ethnicity, and hers, make them conspicuous in any setting. Her mother is white, and their interracial marriage raises eyebrows and some intrusive charges of miscegenation. More troubling, however, is her mother’s frustration at having given up medical school for motherhood, and how she blindly and selfishly insists that Lydia follow her road not taken. The cracks in Lydia’s perfect-daughter foundation grow slowly but erupt suddenly and tragically, and her death threatens to destroy her parents and deeply scar her siblings. Tantalizingly thrilling, Ng’s emotionally complex debut novel captures the tension between cultures and generations with the deft touch of a seasoned writer. Ng will be one to watch. -- Haggas, Carol (Reviewed 05-15-2014) (Booklist, vol 110, number 18, p13)
/* Starred Review */ This emotionally involving debut novel explores themes of belonging using the story of the death of a teenage girl, Lydia, from a mixed-race family in 1970s Ohio. Lydia is the middle and favorite child of Marilyn Walker, a white Virginian, and James Lee, a first-generation Chinese-American. Marilyn and James meet in 1957, when she is a premed at Radcliffe and he, a graduate student, is teaching one of her classes. The two fall in love and marry, over the objections of Marilyn’s mother, whose comment on their interracial relationship is succinct: “It’s not right.” Marilyn gets pregnant and gives up her dream of becoming a doctor, devoting her life instead to raising Lydia and the couple’s other two children, Nathan and Hannah. Then Marilyn abruptly moves out of their suburban Ohio home to go back to school, only to return before long. When Lydia is discovered dead in a nearby lake, the family begins to fall apart. As the police try to decipher the mystery of Lydia’s death, her family realize that they didn’t know her at all. Lydia is remarkably imagined, her unhappy teenage life crafted without an ounce of cliché. Ng’s prose is precise and sensitive, her characters richly drawn. Agent: Julie Barer, Barer Literary. (July) --Staff (Reviewed April 14, 2014) (Publishers Weekly, vol 261, issue 15, p)
/* Starred Review */ Ng's debut is one of those aching stories about which the reader knows so much more than any of the characters, even as each yearns for the unknowable truth. "Lydia is dead," the novel opens—blunt, unnerving, devastating. She's only 16, the middle of three children of James and Marilyn Lee, a mixed-race couple married years before the ironically named Loving v. Virginia finally invalidated U.S. anti-miscegenation laws in 1967. They're initially drawn together by their differences: James, the American-born son of Chinese immigrants, finishing his Harvard PhD; Marilyn, the only Radcliffe undergraduate determined to become a doctor, a gifted scientist among unbelieving men. When they bury their daughter in 1977, the Lee family—already fragile before the tragedy—implodes. James detaches, Marilyn seeks refuge, brother Nath blames, and youngest Hannah silently watches all. Each will search for a Lydia who doesn't exist, desperate to parse what happened. VERDICT Ng constructs a mesmerizing narrative that shrinks enormous issues of race, prejudice, identity, and gender into the miniaturist dynamics of a single family. A breathtaking triumph, reminiscent of prophetic debuts by Ha Jin, Chang-rae Lee, and Chimamanda Adichie, whose first titles matured into spectacular, continuing literary legacies. [See Prepub Alert, 12/16/13.]— Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon, Washington, DC --Terry Hong (Reviewed May 1, 2014) (Library Journal, vol 139, issue 8, p69)
Ng's nuanced debut novel begins with the death of a teenage girl and then uses the mysterious circumstances of her drowning as a springboard to dive into the troubled waters beneath the calm surface of her Chinese-American family. When 16-year-old Lydia Lee fails to show up at breakfast one spring morning in 1977, and her body is later dragged from the lake in the Ohio college town where she and her biracial family don't quite fit in, her parents--blonde homemaker Marilyn and Chinese-American history professor James--older brother and younger sister get swept into the churning emotional conflicts and currents they've long sought to evade. What, or who, compelled Lydia--a promising student who could often be heard chatting happily on the phone; was doted on by her parents; and enjoyed an especially close relationship with her Harvard-bound brother, Nath--to slip away from home and venture out in a rowboat late at night when she had always been deathly afraid of water, refusing to learn to swim? The surprising answers lie deep beneath the surface, and Ng, whose stories have won awards including the Pushcart Prize, keeps an admirable grip on the narrative's many strands as she expertly explores and exposes the Lee family's secrets: the dreams that have given way to disappointment; the unspoken insecurities, betrayals and yearnings; the myriad ways the Lees have failed to understand one another and, perhaps, themselves. These long-hidden, quietly explosive truths, weighted by issues of race and gender, slowly bubble to the surface of Ng's sensitive, absorbing novel and reverberate long after its final page. Ng's emotionally complex debut novel sucks you in like a strong current and holds you fast until its final secrets surface. (Reviewed May 21, 2014)
by Jaclyn Moriarty
Follows a single mother's heartfelt search for more meaningful truths about the universe, her family and herself.
by Lan Samantha Chang
Making a pact to stay together after their mother's suicide, Junan and her sister, Yinan, find their vow challenged when Junan is separated from her husband by the Japanese invasion of China and sends Yinan after him.
by Jean Kwok
A poignant and suspenseful drama that untangles the complicated ties binding three women—two sisters and their mother—in one Chinese immigrant family and explores what happens when the eldest daughter disappears, and a series of family secrets emerge.