I read this book cover to cover in a single day. I was transfixed. Everything I Never Told You is about a family in crisis, but it's so much bigger than that: it's about marriage, parenting, gender, race, and the pressure to be someone other than who you are.
It begins with a death: Lydia, the fifteen-year-old daughter of a Chinese-American father and a white mother, is dead. At first her family doesn't even know she's missing. Eventually her body is found and an investigation commences, but this isn't a thriller or a police procedural. In fact, Everything I Never Told You is less about Lydia's death than it is about her parents' and siblings' desperation to make sense of it, to understand how something so terrible could have happened to their precious daughter and sister.
And in order to understand how Lydia died, you'd have to journey back years into the past, to her mother's Betty Crocker-inspired upbringing, to her father's lonely school years spent isolated in a sea of white faces; only then would you be able to trace the ripples from one incident to the next. Her parents are flawed, yes—whose parents aren't?—but Ng makes devastatingly clear that the mistakes they make with their children, Lydia most of all, are born out of their own disappointments and regrets.
It's heartbreaking to read because we as readers can see what the family members can't—all the reasons they act the way they do, the private experiences that inform their choices—it's all painfully clear to us, but each character is hopelessly trapped by his or her own perspective. The title says it all: there are so many things the Lee family can't say aloud, can't admit, can't find words for, and these are the very things that threaten to pull them under.
Every single character in this book is masterfully realized. I felt like I understood and related to each one, which is something I don't know that I've ever experienced before. I can't wait to press this book into the hands of everyone I know.