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Everything I never told you
2014
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Fiction/Biography Profile
Characters
Marilyn Lee (Female), Homemaker, Married, Mother, White, Her husband is an American born of first-generation Chinese immigrants; she is frustrating at giving up medical school for motherhood; learns her 16-year-old daughter is missing
James Lee (Male), Professor, Married, Father, Chinese American, Born of first-generation Chinese immigrants; married a white girl; learns his 16-year-old daughter is missing
Genre
Fiction
Domestic
Mystery
Suspense
Topics
Professors
Small town life
Chinese Americans
Family relationships
Teenage girls
Mothers and daughters
Family secrets
Identity
Interracial marriage
Interracial families
Prejudice
Missing persons
Setting
Ohio - Midwest (U.S.)
Time Period
1977 -- 20th century
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Trade Reviews

  Library Journal Review

Ng's debut is one of those aching stories about which the reader knows so much more than any of the characters, even as each yearns for the unknowable truth. "Lydia is dead," the novel opens-blunt, unnerving, devastating. She's only 16, the middle of three children of James and Marilyn Lee, a mixed-race couple married years before the ironically named Loving v. Virginia finally invalidated U.S. antimiscegenation laws in 1967. They're initially drawn together by their differences: James, the American-born son of Chinese immigrants, finishing his Harvard PhD; Marilyn, the only Radcliffe undergraduate determined to become a doctor, a gifted scientist among unbelieving men. When they bury their daughter in 1977, the Lee family-already fragile before the tragedy-implodes. James detaches, Marilyn seeks refuge, brother Nath blames, and youngest Hannah silently watches all. Each will search for a Lydia who doesn't exist, desperate to parse what happened. -VERDICT Ng constructs a mesmerizing narrative that shrinks enormous issues of race, prejudice, identity, and gender into the miniaturist dynamics of a single family. A breathtaking triumph, reminiscent of prophetic debuts by Ha Jin, Chang-rae Lee, and -Chimamanda Adichie, whose first titles matured into spectacular, continuing literary legacies. [See Prepub Alert, 12/16/13.]-Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon, Washington, DC (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

  Publishers Weekly Review

This emotionally involving debut novel explores themes of belonging using the story of the death of a teenage girl, Lydia, from a mixed-race family in 1970s Ohio. Lydia is the middle and favorite child of Marilyn Walker, a white Virginian, and James Lee, a first-generation Chinese-American. Marilyn and James meet in 1957, when she is a premed at Radcliffe and he, a graduate student, is teaching one of her classes. The two fall in love and marry, over the objections of Marilyn's mother, whose comment on their interracial relationship is succinct: "It's not right." Marilyn gets pregnant and gives up her dream of becoming a doctor, devoting her life instead to raising Lydia and the couple's other two children, Nathan and Hannah. Then Marilyn abruptly moves out of their suburban Ohio home to go back to school, only to return before long. When Lydia is discovered dead in a nearby lake, the family begins to fall apart. As the police try to decipher the mystery of Lydia's death, her family realize that they didn't know her at all. Lydia is remarkably imagined, her unhappy teenage life crafted without an ounce of cliche. Ng's prose is precise and sensitive, her characters richly drawn. Agent: Julie Barer, Barer Literary. (July) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Summary
Lydia is dead. But they don't know this yet . . . So begins the story of this exquisite debut novel, about a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio. Lydia is the favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee; their middle daughter, a girl who inherited her mother's bright blue eyes and her father's jet-black hair. Her parents are determined that Lydia will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue--in Marilyn's case that her daughter become a doctor rather than a homemaker, in James's case that Lydia be popular at school, a girl with a busy social life and the center of every party.<br> <br> When Lydia's body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together tumbles into chaos, forcing them to confront the long-kept secrets that have been slowly pulling them apart. James, consumed by guilt, sets out on a reckless path that may destroy his marriage. Marilyn, devastated and vengeful, is determined to find a responsible party, no matter what the cost. Lydia's older brother, Nathan, is certain that the neighborhood bad boy Jack is somehow involved. But it's the youngest of the family--Hannah--who observes far more than anyone realizes and who may be the only one who knows the truth about what happened.<br> <br> A profoundly moving story of family, history, and the meaning of home, Everything I Never Told You is both a gripping page-turner and a sensitive family portrait, exploring the divisions between cultures and the rifts within a family, and uncovering the ways in which mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, and husbands and wives struggle, all their lives, to understand one another.
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