Thursday, January 12, 2017

Everything I Never Told You: There is no where to go but on

Oh man, this was good.

I have this problem where I hear about these books that are supposed to be great. People say they're great and they're favorites and they recommend these books that sound like they will be great but also make you work a little. Not a huge amount. They are not necessarily requiring me to understand the ins and outs of say Russian real estate (what up, Master and Margarita). But they still intimidate me, so I think "You know, I'll get to that later. For now, let me read [other book, that is usually a lady comic memoir, that are ALSO great in their own way, but maybe don't require the same work]." But then I do put in the work (which ALWAYS ends up being less work than I thought) and I find a book I loooove. A book that is moving and wonderful, that makes me think while I'm reading "This is it. This is worth it."

This is one of those.

It's all about family and secrets and all the things we don't say to each other and the distances that can create. It's a mystery about the death of the favorite daughter of the Lee family. Except it's not really a mystery in the sense that finding out what happened seems secondary to how the family is coping with the loss.

The story takes place in the late '70s in small town Ohio. The Lee family stands out. Father James is second generation Chinese, growing up always aware that he was "other". The mother Marilyn is white and it was made clear to her that should she marry James that her family, her eventual children will never be accepted. The Lees have three children, but James and Marilyn pour their secret hopes and dreams into Lydia.

James wishes to be seen as American. He wishes he could have had the all-American childhood, to be popular, to fit in. Marilyn's ambition had been to become a doctor, something that certainly made her stand out in the '60s when women just didn't do that. Of course, Marilyn didn't achieve her dreams either.

The story is made up of the family dealing with the loss in the present as well as flashbacks to how everyone (including Lydia) got to the point they're currently at. The characters feel like actual people, they do things that are frustrating and dumb and you know, like people who are dumb and frustrating and insecure. But the characters weren't necessarily unlikable (not that that alone is a bad thing and blah blah blah).

Read this. It's excellent and it's touching and it's relatable and it's so so good. And there are multiple narrators. Do you know how I feel about that? (I AM FOR IT!) Dysfunctional families and the secrets we keep.

Gif rating:
Title quote from page 284

Ng, Celeste. Everything I Never Told You. Penguin, 2014.