It’s May 3, 1977 and Lydia is missing. Actually, Lydia is dead but no one knows that just yet.
The police are called. A search begins. And Lydia’s family hopes beyond hope that the teenage girl will return on her own. As more time passes, Lydia’s parents and siblings worry that they missed something, that there was some sign or clue as to Lydia’s fate. And of course they’re right. Lydia had been hiding things, but so had the rest of them.
Interestingly, Lydia’s death – the exact cause and the reason behind it – isn’t the focus of this story at all. Instead, it’s the relationships between the family members and how they deal with this loss that take center stage.
The parents, Marilyn and James, want their kids to excel in ways they never did. Marilyn in particular pushes Lydia into the same areas she herself studied in a misguided attempt to see her daughter travel a road she never could. Lydia never does have the heart to tell her this isn’t what she wants.
Lydia’s parents are a mixed race couple in the 70s, something that weighs on them all. Marilyn broke with her own mother over the marriage and Lydia and her brother and sister feel the sting of their difference every day. Lydia has no friends and no one to talk to, but her brother notices and doesn’t say anything. Where all three share this feeling of always being an outsider and never quite fitting in, there’s still a disconnect between them. Nath always comes in second to Lydia but never seems to realize how much his sister relies on him. Even Hannah, the youngest, takes a backseat to Lydia almost from the day she’s born. No one pays attention to Hannah, who might have heard Lydia leave on her last night at home.
Everything I Never Told You is such a tragic tale. Misunderstandings, lack of communication, and the fear of disappointing one another lead this family down a road that has awful consequences.
7/15 Becky LeJeune
EVERYTHING I NEVER TOLD YOU by Celeste Ng. Penguin Books; Reprint edition (May 12, 2015). ISBN 978-0143127550. 320p.