Everything I Never Told You
Narrated by Cassandra Campbell
On a spring morning in 1977, James and Marilyn Lee’s family changes in the worst way when their daughter, Lydia, goes missing. When police find her body at the bottom of the lake in their Ohio town, the agonizing questions begin. What happened? Was it murder or suicide? Lydia’s high school classmates can offer nothing, but her brother, Nath, has an idea who might know: their neighbor and classmate, Jack.
What follows is a painful look at a Chinese-American family and their struggle to understand how a girl who was seemingly happy, was not. Lydia’s story is paralleled by her mother’s abandoned dream to become a doctor. And while Marilyn wants Lydia to pick up the dream, James, who was lonely as the only Chinese boy in school, wants only for his children to fit in as Americans. Now without Lydia, her parents’ dreams are forever lost.
Everything I Never Told You is a story about regrets, unfulfilled dreams, unspoken feelings and the inevitable conflicts and misunderstandings that result. James wants his children to be popular because he was not. Marilyn wants to be nothing like her mother, but when she finds herself married and shackled by children, she puts her dream on Lydia. Lydia wants only to please her mother. Nath dreams of escape and Hannah, their younger sister, just wants someone to notice her. Instead of showing how they feel, they pretend. And when Lydia dies, they can’t reach each other for comfort.
It’s only after Lydia dies that her parents get to know her, but it is too late to understand or change the events. Ng helps the reader understand by going back in time to tell each family member’s story, including Lydia’s friendship with Jack and her final night. A tentative connection suggests healing and hope, based on better communication. But they must all move forward without a full knowledge of what happened.
I enjoyed listening to this story, but I found it depressing, if both words can be in the same sentence. It was more of a compulsive listen because of Ng’s excellent writing and her ability to make the reader/listener feel, which was greatly enhanced by the narrator. I was very moved by her character’s emotions. And while there is hope at the finish, I wanted to rewind and tell the Lee children to act out rather than retreat. The need to please parents is always strong, however, and perhaps their feelings of isolation made them focus only on this.
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