Everything I Never Told You is the 2014 debut novel by Celeste Ng. The novel topped Amazon's Best Books of the Year list for 2014. The novel is about a mixed-race Chinese-American family whose middle daughter Lydia is found drowned in a nearby lake. Ng spent six years writing the novel, going through four different full drafts.
On May 3, 1977, Lydia Lee, the middle child of the Lee family, is missing. After several days, her body is dredged out of the town lake. Lydia's parents, James and Marilyn, are horrified by their daughter's death. As the police investigate, her parents discover that, contrary to their belief that Lydia was popular and doing well in school, she was actually very lonely with almost no friends and that her grades had severely slipped.
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The death of their Lydia leads James and Marilyn to reflect on their lives. James, the academically gifted child of Chinese immigrants, spent his life yearning to belong. He met Marilyn in 1957 when he was a doctoral candidate at Harvard teaching a class on American culture in which she was a student. After graduation, James failed to secure a faculty position at Harvard, so he accepted an offer from the fictional Middlewood College in Ohio. Marilyn grew up disgusted by her homemaker mother (who taught home economics at her high school) and longed to become a doctor. When she met James and recognized the racist treatment he had been enduring, Marilyn felt a kinship with him and the two began a relationship. Discovering she was pregnant, Marilyn arranged for a quick marriage to James and was angry when her mother tried to stop the wedding after seeing that James was of Asian descent.
Marilyn intends to resume her studies to become a doctor after her son, Nathan, was born, but after her second pregnancy, with Lydia, she remained a homemaker for eight years. Upon receiving news of her estranged mother's death, Marilyn returns to her childhood home in Virginia to deal with her mother's possessions. While doing so, she realizes that she became a homemaker, as her mother had always desired. Marilyn then abandons her family to pursue her academic studies. James believes that she has left because he and the children are Asian, and that she no longer wants to deal with the societal pressure of being outsiders.
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Marilyn's absence lasts nine weeks, during which time she discovers that she is pregnant with a third child, Hannah. She returns home and realizes that she will never have the will to abandon her children and pursue a career again. Instead, Marilyn encourages Lydia to become a doctor, aggressively training her in math and science. During Marilyn's absence, James began favoring Lydia and bullying Nathan, whom James perceives to be as friendless as James was in childhood. Because to this, Nathan becomes jealous of Lydia and one day pushes her into the lake even though she cannot swim. However, the ease with which she falls causes Nathan to realize that Lydia is drowning under the weight of her parents' expectations. He rescues her and then the two become close.
By the time they are teenagers, Lydia begins buckling under the weight of her mother's expectations and cannot keep up with the advanced math and science courses her mother encourages her to take. She also is tired of pretending that she has friends in order to assuage her father. Lydia begins to hang out with Jack, a next door neighbor whom Nathan hates, and who has a reputation for deflowering town girls.
Meanwhile, Nathan, who has spent the past few years being ignored by his parents, is accepted into Harvard. Lydia is scared of being abandoned by Nathan and hides his acceptance letter. When she is caught, a rift develops between the siblings. Lydia goes to Jack, hoping to have sex with him, but Jack confesses that he is in love with Nathan, and that his reputation as a Lothario is a pretense. Returning home, Lydia is determined to reveal her shortcomings to her father and mother. Tracing her unhappiness to the time her brother pushed her into the lake, Lydia goes there late at night intending to jump into the water and swim back to shore. However, Lydia drowns instead; it is revealed that her death was not a suicide as suggested previously, but a horrible accident.
In the present, Marilyn discovers that after Lydia's death, James has begun an affair with one of his graduate students, Louisa Chen, who is also of Chinese descent. Marilyn learns that James believes that she resents their marriage because he and the children are not white. James leaves Marilyn. However, James and Marilyn slowly begin to reconnect when he returns.
Nathan, who still believes that Jack is responsible for Lydia's death, confronts him by the lake, punching him twice before Hannah, who has realized that Jack is in love with Nathan, stops him. Nathan falls into the lake, where he realizes that he will never understand Lydia's death and achieves a modicum of closure. He is pulled out of the lake by Jack. It is implied that he may return those feelings later in life.
The novel won the Amazon Book of the Year Award in 2014, beating out works by Stephen King and Hilary Mantel. It also received the 2015 Massachusetts Book Award, the American Library Association's 2015 Alex Award, the Asian/Pacific Librarians Association Award for Literature (Adult Fiction), and the Medici Book Club Prize, and was a finalist for the Ohioana Book Awards, The John Creasy/New Blood Dagger Award. and the VCU/Cabell First Novelist Award.
Everything I Never Told You Critical Review
According to the review aggregator website BookmarksEverything I Never Told You received rave reviews. Writing for The New York Times, Alexander Chee described the novel as 'a deep, heartfelt portrait of a family struggling with its place in history, and a young woman hoping to be the fulfillment of that struggle.' Similarly Mark Lawson of The Guardian praised the author's debut novel, writing 'Ng brilliantly depicts the destruction that parents can inflict on their children and on each other.' The review concludes with Lawson noting, 'Everything I Never Told You ranks with acute novels of family psycho-pathology such as Jane Hamilton’s A Map of the World and Laura Lippman’s What the Dead Know.'Kirkus Reviews noted 'Ng's emotionally complex debut novel sucks you in like a strong current and holds you fast until its final secrets surface.'
The book's rights were optioned by LD Entertainment. Oscar-nominated producer Michael De Luca was attached to produce with Julia Cox attached to adapt the screenplay. In December 2018, Julia Roberts was attached to play the lead female role by the book's author.
In May 2020, LD Entertainment's option had expired. Annapurna TV bought the rights to Ng's debut novel and is planning to produce alongside A-Major and will produce it as a limited series instead. Megan Ellison, Sue Naegle, Patrick Chu, and Ali Krug will executive produce the project for Annapurna while Mary Lee will executive produce for A-Major.
- ^ abcTobar, Hector (July 4, 2014). 'Review 'Everything I Never Told You' a moving tale of a dysfunctional family'. Los Angeles Times.
- ^Chee, Alexander (August 15, 2014). 'Sunday Book Review, The Leftovers 'Everything I Never Told You,' by Celeste Ng'. The New York Times.
- ^Simon, Clea (July 1, 2014). 'Book Review 'Everything I Never Told You' by Celeste Ng'. The Boston Globe.
- ^Gross, Jessica. 'Celeste Ng'. Retrieved 7 June 2015.
- ^Hoby, Hermione. 'Amazon book of the year winner Celeste Ng: 'Writing's like shouting into the world''. Retrieved 7 June 2015.
- ^'Mass Center for the Book Mass Book Awards'. massbook.org. Archived from the original on 2016-09-22. Retrieved 2016-09-08.
- ^ALAM (2016-01-11). '2015 Alex Awards Winner'. Archived from the original on 2016-10-27. Retrieved 2016-09-08.
- ^'2014-2015 Awards Winners APALA'. www.apalaweb.org. Retrieved 2016-09-08.
- ^'The Medici Book Club Prize – Literary Affairs'. www.literaryaffairs.net. Archived from the original on 2016-09-18. Retrieved 2016-09-08.
- ^Weaver, David (May–June 2015). 'Ohioana Announces 2015 Book Award Finalists'(PDF). May–June Ohioana Newsletter. Retrieved 2016-09-08 – via http://www.ohioana.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/May-June-2015-Ohioana-Newsletter.pdf.
- ^'Winners archive — The Crime Writers' Association'. thecwa.co.uk. Retrieved 2016-09-08.
- ^'The 2015 Cabell First Novelist Award Winner!'. 2015-07-17. Retrieved 2016-09-08.
- ^'Book Marks reviews of Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng'. Book Marks. Retrieved 2021-05-31.
- ^Chee, Alexander (2014-08-15). 'The Leftovers'. The New York Times. ISSN0362-4331. Retrieved 2021-05-31.
- ^ ab'Everything I Never Told You review – Amazon's best book of the year by Celeste Ng'. the Guardian. 2014-11-20. Retrieved 2021-05-31.
- ^EVERYTHING I NEVER TOLD YOU Kirkus Reviews.
- ^N'Duka, Amanda (2018-01-12). 'LD Entertainment & Michael De Luca To Adapt Celeste Ng's Novel 'Everything I Never Told You''. Deadline. Retrieved 2018-01-18.
- ^Lamy, Nicole (2018-12-20). 'Celeste Ng Is More Than a Novelist'. The New York Times. ISSN0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-04-18.
- ^Ng, Celeste (2019-01-21). 'Good news: It's being adapted into a feature film—with Julia Roberts attached to play Marilyn!https://twitter.com/ReadItForward/status/1087504114177589248 …'. @pronounced_ing. Retrieved 2020-04-18.
- ^Donnelly, Matt (2020-05-22). 'Annapurna TV Wins Bidding War for Debut Novel From 'Little Fires Everywhere' Author Celeste Ng (EXCLUSIVE)'. Variety. Retrieved 2020-05-23.