Book Talk: Everything I Never Told You8:30:00 PM
I really enjoyed reading this novel, in spite of a lack of fast-paced plot. I found myself saying, "I'm halfway through, and nothing has happened yet," and that feeling prevailed throughout the novel, but I continued reading because of something that I usually dislike - chapters with alternating POVs. Rather than using this device as a crutch, Ng skillfully explores the nuances of a family that has been keeping secrets since long before Lydia's disappearance. As each character reveals something they've been keeping hidden, the reader begins to piece together what has actually happened - to this family, and to Lydia.
Matriarch Marilyn has pulled a disappearing act of her own, as it turns out, and battles with the dreams she was unable to pursue both as a woman and a mother. Patriarch James, the son of Chinese immigrants, felt culturally and socially isolated his entire life, and pushes his children to be popular no matter what. Then there are Nathan and Hannah, Lydia's siblings, who are overlooked and forced to orbit the favored, and nearly worshipped, Lydia. Lydia, the golden child, whose success keeps the family together. Her disappearance and death (this isn't really a spoiler) is the catalyst for major change - without her, everything the family has worked so hard to project comes tumbling down around them.
This character-driven exploration of family dynamics kept me engaged, in spite of the lack of "things happening." Reading about the role of gender and race in the 1970's was fascinating, but also alarming, as most everything that happened in the novel could still easily happen today - perhaps the point the author was trying to make. I think this kind of literature is powerful, and I hope to see more of it get the kind of publicity that Ng and her novel did.
Do you need a fast paced plot to stay engaged in a novel? Or are well developed characters enough? Let me know what you think, and how you felt about Everything I Never Told You in the comments!