Lydia Lee is dead. It is 1977 in rural Ohio and she is the middle child of a mixed race couple. Her mom, Marilyn, is caucasian, and her dad, James, is Chinese. This detail matters because the Lee family stands out like a flashing caution light all across town.
Lydia’s body is found in a nearby lake, a shocking revelation that rocks the family. Who would murder such a beautiful, intelligent girl with so much life and success ahead of her? She was well-loved and ambitious, happy and eager…
But was she really all of those things? This is the question that gets answered with each chapter of Everything I Never Told You. Jumping from one character to the other – Mom, Dad, older brother Nathan, younger sister Hannah, and even from Lydia’s before she died – the story details Lee family secrets, the societal pressures of being glaringly “Oriental” in a vastly white area, and the damage we do to one another with our high expectations.
This book could be titled “How to Parent” or “How to Handle Prejudice” or “The Teenage Years are the Worst No Matter Who You Are.” It could be a study on Mother-Daughter relationships or Father-Son relationships. It could be an instructional guide on how to listen and read body language.
This isn’t a happy book, but it’s a captivating one. It is a portrait of a family’s struggle in 1970s America when immigration is just one generation behind them and a mixed-race marriage is like a museum exhibit. For those who enjoy a delve into cultural history, you’ll appreciate the author’s perspective. If you are a parent, particularly a parent of tweens and teens, no matter your race, I highly recommend it.