Complicated relationships further complicated by the family and societal pressures. Most of the times, we are capable of sustaining them, at times cracks appear and at times it leads to a collapse, a breakdown. The entire ecosystem comes tumbling down like a house of cards….
“Everything I never told you” is a story of a Chinese-American family of five in the 70’s in a small American town, the Chinese father trying desperately to blend in while the American mother directs all her efforts to stand out from the crowd. Caught between them are their three children and due to the societal DNA of the 70’s the children grown up ostracized because of their inter-racial DNA. The parents are completely oblivious to the trials and tribulations that their children face on a daily basis, their entire focus, the cynosure of their eyes, Lydia, a fifteen year old teenager, who succumbs to all this pressure. Between her mother’s lofty aspirations to make her daughter an esteemed doctor, a dream she cherished for herself, and her father’s attempts to make Lydia a popular and much sought after girl in school and otherwise, to compensate for the lack of friends that he himself had because of his background.
But none of it works. Nath, Lydia’s older brother understands and empathizes with Lydia, even when he is constantly relegated to the background and all his accomplishments are overshadowed and come to a naught. At one point he starts to nurture a grudge against Lydia and one summer, when their mother had abandoned them, pushes Lydia into the lake. That summer is the turning point in all their lives, a dark spot that changes things forever.
The book is not a happy book, it’s a serious/sad book fraught with emotions and expectations that can break havoc on a fragile relationship. It’s about secrets , suppressed emotions, vulnerabilities of teenage children, unspoken thoughts between a husband and wife that deepens the chasm and going on living each day thinking it will all work out in the end.
But for Lydia and her family, things don’t work out. Author Celeste Ng, paints a graphic emotional picture of the Lee family, a memory that will haunt the readers for several nights. The book should be a reminder for all parents that children even though malleable, yet are fragile beings. Even an innocuous slight, a minor rebuke can create a deep gash in the emotional and diaphanous fabric of the child. It’s all the more important in today’s world of cut throat completion, to bond with our children, laud their innocuous efforts, cherish and nurture their dreams and not drown them with our aspirations. Else there will be another Lydia before the lesson will be learnt and by then it will be late.