What I’m Reading: Everything I Never Told You

From the Book Jacket:

So begins this exquisite novel about a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio. Lydia is the favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee, and her parents are determined that she will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue. But when Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together is destroyed, tumbling them into chaos.

A profoundly moving story of family, secrets, and longing, Everything I Never Told You is both a gripping page-turner and a sensitive family portrait, uncovering the ways in which mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, and husbands and wives struggle, all their lives, to understand one another.

My review:

Part of me really enjoyed this story, and the other part of me really disliked it. I don’t know if it’s because I really enjoyed Little Fires Everywhere and I had big expectations, but something about Everything I Never Told You just left me feeling unsatisfied.

I’ll start by saying that Marilyn and James Lee really annoyed me. They were your stereotypical “I want my child to beeverything I wish I was when I was growing up” kind of parents, and I couldn’t stand them. I get that parents often live vicariously through their offspring, but they were ridiculously selfish.

That being said, a big kudos to Celeste Ng for making me loathe them so much but at the same time wanting to know more about them. My heart hurt for their children, whether it was because they were being pushed into being something they didn’t want, being ridiculed for having a passion, or being ignored completely.

I’d almost give Everything I Never Told You four stars, but there’s some nagging feeling holding me back. I think I just wanted more out of it; it felt way too short for the subject matter and I feel there’s some kind of void that’s been left unfilled.

My rating: ★★★¾/5 stars

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What I’m Reading: The Immortalists

From the book jacket:

If you knew the date of your death, how would you live your life?

It’s 1969 in New York City’s Lower East Side, and word has spread of the arrival of a mystical woman, a traveling psychic who claims to be able to tell anyone the day they will die. The Gold children—four adolescents on the cusp of self-awareness—sneak out to hear their fortunes.

The prophecies inform their next five decades. Golden-boy Simon escapes to the West Coast, searching for love in ’80s San Francisco; dreamy Klara becomes a Las Vegas magician, obsessed with blurring reality and fantasy; eldest son Daniel seeks security as an army doctor post-9/11; and bookish Varya throws herself into longevity research, where she tests the boundary between science and immortality.

A sweeping novel of remarkable ambition and depth, The Immortalists probes the line between destiny and choice, reality and illusion, this world and the next. It is a deeply moving testament to the power of story, the nature of belief, and the unrelenting pull of familial bonds.

My review:

After reading the book jacket for The Immortalists I was intrigued and just had to give it a go. After all, if you knew what day was your last on earth, how would you live your life?

The story starts off with the four Gold kids visiting the fortune teller and then kicks off their timelines. The book is sorted into four parts, one per character, and each section blends the timelines together between characters.

While each chapter was pretty long (40+ pages in come cases) I found myself blasting my way through Simon and Klara’s sections. They were perhaps the most enjoyable and interesting to read, then the pace got a little slow when it got to Daniel, and even more so with Varya. This isn’t to say that I didn’t enjoy it, I just felt like I wanted a bit more out of Daniel and Varya’s storyline.

In the end, The Immortalists isn’t overly graphic, but depicts a fictional-but-accurate tale of the times. And the premise itself is a great conversation starter: If you could know when in time will be the day you die, would you want to know? Would knowing shape your life differently?

My rating: ★★★★/5