Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng (2014)
Lydia, the golden child of a mixed race couple, is dead, but it will be days before her body is found in the nearby lake. Lydia’s Chinese father wanted her to have the social life he never had while her white mother, who gave up her dream of being a doctor to have a family, pushed her academically. Now the lives of her parents and siblings are turned upside-down as they struggle to make sense of her loss and confront the secrets and strains that led to her death.
Everything I Never Told You is told through Lydia’s family members — the father who wanted her to fit in, the mother who wanted her to stand out, and the overlooked siblings. It’s an emotional story about identity, unreasonable expectations, racial and gender prejudice, and family dynamics. Don’t expect a “feel good” story with this book.
You might like this book if you are interested in…
- Parents projecting their hopes and fears on their children
- Strong character development
- Dysfunctional family dynamics
- Racial and gender prejudice
- Fitting in vs. being different
My mom practically shoved A Man Called Ove at me and exclaimed, “YOU HAVE TO READ THIS BOOK!” When I asked her what it was about, she said, “A grumpy old Swedish man who wants to kill himself. You’ll LOVE it!” Um what?
Ove is an old-fashioned curmudgeon who is surrounded by incompetent neighbors who are caught up in technology, lax about rules, and oblivious of basic maintenance. It’s all incredibly irritating for Ove. He goes on a daily neighborhood inspection to ensure that everything is in order and rules are not being broken.
There used to be a forest here but now there were only houses. Everything paid for with loans, of course. That was how you did it nowadays. Shopping on credit and driving electric cars and hiring tradesman to change a lightbulb. A society that apparently could not see the difference between the correct anchor bolt for a concrete wall and a smack in the face.
After his wife dies and he is forced into early retirement, Ove feels like he has nothing left to live for… except that every time he tries to kill himself, his pesky neighbors get in the way. Ove feels compelled to help his neighbors through their ill-timed crises since they can’t be counted on to do things correctly. As time passes, they find an unexpected place in Ove’s life and reveal that there is more to Ove than his cranky exterior.
Although it seems like an unappealing premise (“a grumpy old Swedish man who wants to kill himself”), A Man Called Ove is surprisingly heartwarming, funny, and charming.
Throughout the book, I was constantly quoting amusing passages to my family members who had read the book. Things like:
It was five to six in the morning when Ove and the cat met for the first time. The cat instantly disliked Ove exceedingly. The feeling was very much reciprocated.
I had such a fun time reading this book and it’s one of my favorites so far this year. Like my mom, I’ll keep my review simple and say YOU HAVE TO READ THIS BOOK!
You might like this book if you like…
- Quirky Scandinavian literature
- Begrudgingly helping out incompetent neighbors
- The movie Up
- Saabs (and just can’t reason with people who buy BMWs)
- Knowing which anchor bolt to use for a concrete wall
- Referring to cats as “Cat Annoyances”