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Kent State Stark Library Book Club
Wednesday, February 25th, 2015.
Time: 5:15 p.m.
Meeting will be held in the Library.
Selected by the Amazon Editors as the #1 Book of the Year: Lydia is dead. From the first sentence of Celeste Ng’s stunning debut, we know that the oldest daughter of the Chinese-American Lee family has died. What follows is a novel that explores alienation, achievement, race, gender, family, and identity--as the police must unravel what has happened to Lydia, the Lee family must uncover the sister and daughter that they hardly knew. There isn’t a false note in this book, and my only concern in describing my profound admiration for Everything I Never Told You is that it might raise unachievable expectations in the reader. But it’s that good. Achingly, precisely, and sensitively written. --Chris Schluep
Ng is a recipient of the Pushcart Prize.
Author Talks About Growing Up in Shaker Heights, Ohio
Library Book Club Pick for February 2015
Everything I Never Told You by
Publication Date: 2014-06-26
Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet . . . So begins thenbsp;story of this exquisite debut novel, about a Chinesenbsp;American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio.nbsp;Lydia is the favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee;nbsp;their middle daughter, a girl who inherited hernbsp;mother’s bright blue eyes and her father’s jet-blacknbsp;hair. Her parents are determined that Lydia willnbsp;fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue#151;innbsp;Marilyn’s case that her daughter become a doctornbsp;rather than a homemaker, in James’s case that Lydianbsp;be popular at school, a girl with a busy social life andnbsp;the center of every party. When Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, thenbsp;delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Leenbsp;family together tumbles into chaos, forcing them tonbsp;confront the long-kept secrets that have been slowlynbsp;pulling them apart. James, consumed by guilt, setsnbsp;out on a reckless path that may destroy his marriage.nbsp;Marilyn, devastated and vengeful, is determined tonbsp;find a responsible party, no matter what the cost.nbsp;Lydia’s older brother, Nathan, is certain that thenbsp;neighborhood bad boy Jack is somehow involved.nbsp;But it’s the youngest of the family#151;Hannah#151;whonbsp;observes far more than anyone realizes and whonbsp;may be the only one who knows the truth aboutnbsp;what happened. A profoundly moving story of family, history,nbsp;and the meaning of home, Everything I Never Told Younbsp;is both a gripping page-turner and a sensitive familynbsp;portrait, exploring the divisions between culturesnbsp;and the rifts within a family, and uncovering thenbsp;ways in which mothers and daughters, fathers andnbsp;sons, and husbands and wives struggle, all their lives,nbsp;to understand one another.
Amazon Customer Reviews
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Stereotypes. Appearances. Expectations. They blind us to each other and skew communication in so many ways. Each member of the Lee family sees the world through his or her own experiences and cannot understand how this affects others. Nothing unusual here--we all have our viewpoints and unintentional blinders. What sets Everything I Never Told You apart and makes the book special is twofold: beautiful plotting and beautiful writing.
The plot is a graceful blending of present and past. Page one reveals that sixteen-year-old Lydia Lee is dead, but she comes to life for the reader when Chapter Two asks "How had it begun?" The answer travels back two generations, revealing dreams and disappointments of her parents, grandparents, older brother and younger sister, while also showing the actions and reactions of her family in the aftermath of her death. Each family member has a different thought about what happened to Lydia, and we don't learn the truth until the very end. In this regard, it's a successful mystery. But it's also much more.
Lydia's Chinese father, James, has felt defined by racial stereotypes all his life. Lydia's caucasian mother, Marilyn, has been governed by her own mother's need to maintain proper appearances. The unrealistic expectations James and Marilyn place on their own children have molded Lydia and her siblings, Nathan and Hannah.
The writing is nuanced and gentle. No sledgehammers here--the reader is allowed to knit together the pieces of the individual characters' stories to see a bigger picture. These are people who are trying to do the right thing from their own perspective, and their conflicts come about because they don't realize that situations look completely different to someone else. Although the characters are all flawed, they are presented in a nonjudgmental way that lets the reader care about their struggles and their sincerity. Since different readers will bring different expectations and experiences to the story, it's safe to say the novel will be slightly different for each one.
This story is haunting but it's not a ghost story, even though the main character is dead. Instead, it's haunting in the sense that it stayed with me after I had closed the cover. The beauty of the writing lingered, as did the spirits of the characters.
Readers looking for a lively action-adventure or police-procedural mystery will be disappointed. Those who like a thoughtful, well-written, character-driven novel built around a central mysterious event will enjoy Everything I Never Told You.