Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
From the first sentence of this book, I was destroyed. Beautiful and poignant, this was a cautionary tale to all parents who push their own neglected dreams onto their children. Although my daughter isn't even two yet, I can understand the desire to do so. Of course everyone wants their daughter to be the first female president or to be a highly paid neurosurgeon... a notable stand out in an industry full of male faces. When I first found out that Lorelai was a girl, I started going on a tirade about how she would not be a princess-loving, pink glitter wearing girl. It was my husband that had to rein me in. "Lorelai will be whatever she wants. We will paint her room bright pink if she asks for it. Santa will bring all Disney Princess toys if that's what she loves." In our desire to make sure our daughters know they're capable of doing anything in this world, many parents can push too hard in the other direction. As I constantly remind myself, feminism is all about women having a CHOICE about their lives. So for any parent to insist that her precious baby girl not fit into any of the stale gender stereotypes, we're also potentially keeping them from fully realizing the person they are. Although this is fiction, I know that this book will stick with me through the years... as I find myself parenting a kid, a tween and then eventually *gulp* a teenager. Celeste Ng's Lydia has taught me to constantly be evaluating whether or not I'm doing something in Lorelai's best interest, or if I'm doing it because Mommy always wanted to do it and never got a chance. Thank you for that, Ms. Ng!
Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet . . . So begins the story of this exquisite debut novel, about a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio. Lydia is the favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee; their middle daughter, a girl who inherited her mother’s bright blue eyes and her father’s jet-black hair. Her parents are determined that Lydia will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue—in Marilyn’s case that her daughter become a doctor rather than a homemaker, in James’s case that Lydia be popular at school, a girl with a busy social life and the center of every party. When Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together tumbles into chaos, forcing them to confront the long-kept secrets that have been slowly pulling them apart. James, consumed by guilt, sets out on a reckless path that may destroy his marriage. Marilyn, devastated and vengeful, is determined to find a responsible party, no matter what the cost. Lydia’s older brother, Nathan, is certain that the neighborhood bad boy Jack is somehow involved. But it’s the youngest of the family—Hannah—who observes far more than anyone realizes and who may be the only one who knows the truth about what happened. A profoundly moving story of family, history, and the meaning of home, Everything I Never Told You is both a gripping page-turner and a sensitive family portrait, exploring the divisions between cultures and the rifts within a family, and uncovering the ways in which mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, and husbands and wives struggle, all their lives, to understand one another.