Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
(Penguin Press, 2014, 297 pages)
Ng’s first novel is a unique read that quickly draws you in. Set in a small town in Ohio in the 1970s we are introduced to the Lee family. The family of 5 resembles the American middle class in every way except for the fact that the Lees (Marilyn and James) are an interracial couple – a reality that was far from the norm for the time. Things become difficult for the family when their middle child, Lydia, is found drowned in the local lake. The police are leaning towards ruling her death as a suicide but Lydia’s parents and brother refuse to accept this. Marilyn is sure her daughter had too much going for her and that her death is the result of foul play. James believes his daughter was too social and well-loved to have thrown her life away. And Nathan, her older brother, is sure that the neighborhood “bad boy,” Jake, had something to do with Lydia’s death.
It is slowly revealed that the Lydia her family thought they knew wasn’t her true self. She put on the face she thought her parents wanted to see… but that doesn’t help to answer how a girl who didn’t know how to swim ended up drowned in the middle of a lake. Now her family is left to try and pick up the pieces of their lives because Lydia’s death has thrown them all off track in one way or another.
This was an engaging novel that keeps the reader going as they try to find answers for what happened to Lydia and how her family will begin to heal from her loss. I’ll be curious to see what Ng comes up with next.