Book Review: Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

Everything I Never Told YouEverything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
Audiobook Release Date: June 26, 2014
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Publisher’s Description:

“Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.” So begins this exquisite novel about a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio. Lydia is the favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee, and her parents are determined that she will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue. But when Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together is destroyed, tumbling them into chaos. A profoundly moving story of family, secrets, and longing, Everything I Never Told You is both a gripping page-turner and a sensitive family portrait, uncovering the ways in which mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, and husbands and wives struggle, all their lives, to understand one another.

Everything I Never told you is a spot on title for this book. The book opens with the death of Lydia Lee, the oldest daughter of Marilyn and James Lee. Trying to ascertain whether her death was due to murder or suicide is actually a small part of this story. The larger part is exploring each member of the Lee family and the secrets they keep from each other. You can’t help but think how things would have turned out if they had just been honest with each other about their feelings.

The characters in this book are not particularly likeable but I don’t think that’s a requirement for a good book. I was really mad at some of them, especially Lydia’s mom. Actually, her dad made me angry much of the time too. The book moves back and forth from the time after Lydia’s death and how the family is dealing with it, to stories of what life was like for Lydia and her family before her death. Even though Lydia is dead from the beginning, her character is well-developed. All of the other characters are too and the motivations for their actions are clear.

Ng’s prose is beautiful and poetic. I listened to the audio version of this book. The narrator’s soft, gentle voice was perfect for the flow of this book. I know this is an odd criticism, but it’s a little too much at times, with beautiful metaphors crafted for the most mundane things. However, that is my only criticism of this book.

Everything I Never Told You was well deservedly on several best of lists of 2014. I highly recommend it.


  • S.G. Wright

    Yes. I read this one for book club which was good b/c it had quite a few issues to discuss. You do feel like shaking these characters! here are some of my thoughts on it at

  • Heather O’Roark

    I liked this but didn’t love it. I thought the writing was beautiful and the story was very haunting but ultimately it was pretty depressing, especially once Lydia’s fate is revealed – it was just sad.