Watch a Family Unravel in Celeste Ng’s Novel “Everything I Never Told You”
In Celeste Ng’s debut novel Everything I Never Told You, the Lee family quickly unravels after their middle daughter Lydia is found floating in an Ohio lake in the 1970s. Lydia’s parents struggle with their guilt, as her father James hoped she’d be a social butterfly while her mother Marilyn constantly pressured Lydia to become a doctor instead of a stay-at-home housewife. Meanwhile, Lydia’s little sister Hannah may hold the key to the truth about her sibling’s death. The family also attempts to keep some of their secrets safely hidden in a closet as well, but all of their destructive tendencies are on display and they are forced to face their own inner demons throughout the course of the novel.
Racism and “helicopter parents” are two of the main themes in the novel. Due to the fact that James felt like an outsider, he put immense pressure on his daughter to fit in so that she’d never experience the discrimination that he faced while growing up. Meanwhile, Marilyn’s desire for her daughter to achieve her own dreams ignored the fact that Lydia had her own wants and desires. Her constant hovering did her daughter no favors, and in the end, Marilyn pays a heavy toll for her crimes.
Although Everything I Never Told You is a difficult read, the dysfunctional family that Lydia grew up in is one that is reflected in many households across America, despite the fact that it is rarely spoken of.