It seems that Jack has got the blogging bug……..or possibly he is looking for distractions from writing his dissertation. Here is another blog post from him :-
When my mum suggested that I read Everything I Never Told You in order to review it, I was a bit apprehensive. After reading the blurb and the first few chapters, I thought that this was going to be a whodunit-esque murder mystery and therefore I told myself that I would’t enjoy this book. I trudged along though and the more I read , the more I enjoyed the book.
The story focuses on the Lees, an Asian-American family, living in a small town in Ohio during the 1970’s. The family is made up of Marilyn, the mother, who has become the very thing she despises the most; James, the father, whose greatest wish is to just fit in ;Nath, their eldest child, who can’t wait to leave; Hannah, their youngest and the most observant of them all, and Lydia, the favourite child. We join the Lees on the morning of May 3rd 1977, the day that Lydia dies.
Although this book starts with a death, it is primarily about those that were left behind. We see the mystery of Lydia’s death unravel through the eyes of each of the family members and as we do, we learn more about each of them and more about Lydia as well. Having so many narrators can often be confusing, but Ng is able to move the story between each of the characters without interrupting the flow of the story, which, in my opinion, is an impressive feat.
The story also flits effortlessly between time frames. We learn about James’ and Marilyn’s childhoods, how they met and what happened that one summer before Lydia died, the thing that that no one can talk about. We learn about Lydia’s childhood too.
Ng highlights the natural frictions that exist within a family unit. All this tension kept me on the edge of my seat and made me want to find out how the family is going to cope, once all their secrets finally come out.
Ng also deals with what it is like to grow up under the ever constant shadow of parental expectation. She captures beautifully the struggle between making your family proud and being your own person.
Ng also explores issues of race. She uses the character of James, the son of Chinese immigrants, to investigate this topic the most. James just wants to fit in and becomes a professor of American History, specifically studying cowboys. He is constantly searching for ways to blend in and disappear from the spotlight that he feels has been on him since he was a child. Marylin, however, sees him differently. She loves James because of his ‘uniqueness’ not in spite of it. She also sees herself as being different and has
aspirations that extend beyond the kitchen, aspirations that she forces upon Lydia.
Ng tells an exciting story with refreshing characters. It is a thoroughly enjoyable read from an up-and-coming author and I am excited to see what else she has to offer.