Sunday, October 8, 2017

Our Shadow Selves

photo by Amy Brandon

“Of course I know what I want, she thought, but when she opened her mouth she found it empty.”
Lydia in Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

It’s dark and rainy, and I love it.  I’m beginning to prefer days like these, to find comfort and revelation in the dark as well as in the light. My friend, Carrie, said she found Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng a bit dark for her taste.  I remember wondering before I read it if I might feel the same.  I usually don’t like dark books, but for some reason I didn’t have a problem with this one.  Maybe because it is written in such a way that I knew Lydia was dead in the first three words so I never became emotionally attached to her.  I read the book more as an interesting study of the dysfunctional way we interact with each other, especially within our families. 

I liked the structure of the book – the way Ng seems to scatter random pieces of the plot and then slowly pick them up and tie them together. Even though you know the main plot point from sentence one, tension, uncertainty, and suspense still build as Ng reveals the how and why of Lydia’s death.  The reasons we hide our truths from one another are various, but the end result is the same:  dishonesty leads to discord and sometimes to tragedy.  Like Lydia, many of us aren’t even able to admit our truths to ourselves.  It seems all of the characters in Everything I Never Told You are hiding both from themselves and from those closest to them.  Hidden truths become bent in the hiding and what was beautiful becomes disfigured.  There are few things more beautiful than a fully-realized human who has the courage to live her truth, and there are few things more dangerous than its opposite. Why do we feel compelled to hide from each other as if any of us is anything other than fully human? This book is a study in what happens when we repress our truths and don’t learn to express them before it’s too late to prevent tragedy.


Harvee said...

I also found this novel intriguing and could empathize with several of the characters who found themselves at odds with each other.

Amy said...

I agree. It's made me want to read her new one.

Vintage Reading said...

I wanted to like this more than I did. I didn't dislike it but didn't love it either. I would read another novel by Ng though.

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