In Short: Lydia is dead–or so the novel begins. The teenage middle child of the Lee family is found drowned and as the family tries to piece together what may have happened, their own threads begin to unravel.
Why I Listened: Everything I Never Told You was one of the most buzzed about books last year and having listened to Campbell’s narration in the past I knew that’s the way I wanted to go (plus I can always seem to get to buzzy type books on audio well before paper).
Thoughts in General: Going into Everything I Never Told You, I knew that this was a family drama surrounding the death of a family member and that honestly didn’t appeal to me too much. What I found instead was a look into the lives of all of the Lee family members–from the three children to their mother and father, both past and present. I also didn’t realize that the book was set in the 1970s (and earlier) which provided an interesting backdrop for the biracial marriage between James (Chinese) and Marilyn (white). Identity, especially for the children, plays a large part in the story.
What really hit me regarding the book, though, comes straight from the title–how many secrets do we hold within ourselves? What do we keep from our partners or children? What goes left unsaid? When it’s all said and done, is it worth keeping those truths within us and present an outward lie? I loved the way that Ng slowly peels back the layers of the Lee family to show the reader all of the complexity that lies within. Everything I Never Told You broke my heart about a billion different ways.
The writing in Everything I Never Told You is beautiful–the narration is omniscient so we see everyone’s thoughts and desires. I’m not sure if this was a function of the audio or not, but the narration seemed to jump around from character to character quite frequently. While this can feel jarring in some books, it felt so seamless within this one–almost like we focused on one character and then the baton was passed to the next and we were then inside that person’s head. I wish I had some quotes from the book to share with you…but audiobook pitfall.
Bottom Line: I was really struck by Everything I Never Told You. I think common complaints about the book might be that it is too dark or sad or that there isn’t a lot that happens throughout the book (this is one of those character driven stories I love so much). However, the story and the characters made me reflect upon my own life and I think this book would make a great book club selection. This will likely make my list for favorite books of 2015.
Notes on the Audio: I loved Cassandra Campbell’s narration for Everything I Never Told You. Her quiet and reflective tone was perfect for the book and made for a compelling listen (I know, quiet and compelling don’t seem to go together). While I imagine this would also be a great read on paper, I would absolutely recommend listening to Everything I Never Told You!
Have you read Everything I Never Told You? Do you enjoy books dealing with familial issues?