Envision the existence of yearning, internal conflict, and lack of camaraderie. A place where no one understands you, nor do you accept yourself. The only bond is with your family. This image of isolation, hopelessness, and anguish, I suspect, is not difficult to conceptualize in our current climate. What a dark reality? This is how I felt after reading the somber debut novel Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

The novel centers around the Lee family, James, the father, a first-generation Chinese American, Marilyn, the mother is white from Virginia, and their three children, Nate, Lydia, and Hannah. The family lives in a peaceful all-American small town in Ohio. In 1977, Lydia, the middle child and the favorite of James and Marilyn, is missing. Lydia’s body is soon found in a nearby lake, in an apparent suicide. This discovery leads to many questions. Was Lydia unhappy? Lonely? How did this happen? I pondered the story’s path at this point in the book since everything was presented in the first few chapters. So I thought. 

As the questions pile, the heavy burden shatters the carefully constructed household, which allows for an inspection of the family dynamic. We can now observe the pressure Lydia felt from her parents and the neglect of Nate and Hannah. James despised his childhood because he could not assimilate or connect with others. Marilyn loved science and planned to be a physician. Both transferred these desired to Lydia, unknowingly suppressing her voice. 

Frankly, I found this book haunting. The first thing I noticed was the lack of friendship; none of the family members had any close connections outside of the house. To not share your genuine thoughts with others is a lonely existence and a reality more people are facing in the pandemic. I think this book had a more significant effect on me because of our current climate. It showed the importance of friendship and voicing your needs. 

I would not recommend this book for everyone because of the heartbreaking story, but it is a well-written novel, and I truly enjoyed it.

What was your last heartbreaking story?

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