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Bookworm: Explore guilt, grief in 'Everything I Never Told You'

July 9, 2014 at 2:09 a.m.


KATHLEEN DUNCAN

"Lydia is dead."

From the first line of "Everything I Never Told You" by Celeste Ng, we know the ending.

A young girl is dead, and her family is shattered. They wake up one day to her bed still made, her room empty and the breakfast table with one less person gathered around it.

They wait; they worry. But we all know what they suspect deep down: Lydia is dead. Soon, she is found drowned in the lake, and all their fears are confirmed. Their daughter, sister, loved one is gone.

What we don't know is why.

As the days pass following Lydia's death, her family implodes with guilt, suspicion, grief and loss.

Each person in her family may know more or less than they realize about Lydia's death. As each character is introduced to readers, we learn a little more about the truth of Lydia and of their individual lives.

This complicated and thrilling novel explores the dynamics of a biracial family in the 1970s and all that it entails.

Daily, this family must cope with the pressure, discrimination and expectations from the white community they live in. This is compounded by their own familial misunderstandings, secrets, regret, expectations and, of course, love or lack thereof.

Families have the unique ability of being able to hurt each other in ways that no one else can. One look, one sentence, one action from a parent or sibling can affect a person profoundly. Because of the unyielding love of families, everything members do in relation to each other matters more deeply than they may wish to admit.

We see this in the days that pass after Lydia's death. Well-meaning actions have dire consequences. One angry mistake can lead to years of sorrow. And the words left unsaid - those can be the most harmful of all.

Though this book starts with the haunting death of Lydia, it delves much deeper than the average murder mystery.

"Everything I Never Told You" explores difficult issues with graceful and poignant storytelling. Race, gender, prejudice and the dynamics of familial relationships are all emotionally illuminated as each character's internal struggles are revealed.

Ng's debut novel is not only an enthralling page turner that you won't be able to put down, but also a touching portrait of a fractured family finding their way back to each other at last.

Kat Duncan is the photo and video editor at the Advocate. She loves to read, travel, run and play with her pup, Panda. Chat with her about books on Twitter @Kat Duncan_VA.

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