“Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet. 1977, May 3, six thirty in the morning, no one knows anything but this innocuous fact: Lydia is late for breakfast.”
Everything I Never Told You: A Novel is the poignant story of a family: James, a husband and father of Chinese descent, his white wife Marilyn, and their three children. Nathan, the oldest, looks like his father, but Lydia looks almost exactly like her mother. And Hannah seemingly disappears into the woodwork, as Marilyn and James both focus all of their own hopes and dreams on Lydia.
The story weaves back and forth, before and after. We see how Marilyn, a student, first meets James, a professor. How they fall in love, and then how Marilyn’s own ambitions are thwarted by the expectations of wives and mothers in that time, the fifties and sixties. Sadly, we see how Marilyn takes a “break” from this life for a few weeks, only to realize that she must return; that her own dreams cannot happen.
Did Marilyn’s disappointments lead to her living vicariously through Lydia, pushing her to achieve those thwarted dreams? With the spotlight shining harshly upon Lydia, did this force her onto a path she did not want, causing everything to turn to tragedy? How would Lydia’s death derail all of their lives?
In the home that James and Marilyn had created in Middlewood, Ohio, and walking among the familiar things that remind them of what they have lost, we also see them slowly beginning to remember what they still have. A lovely story that gripped my heart, even as it reminded me of times in the past in my own life, when reaching for what we wanted seemed just out of reach. I would have given 5.0 stars, except for a few sections that felt repetitive. A memorable read, however, earning my 4.0 stars.