Saturday, September 19, 2015

A Quiet Story With So Much To Say: Everything I Never Told You

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng is a quiet story, told in wisps, like smoke that too late reveals the raging inferno behind the closed door.

No one is quieter than Hannah, a member of the Lee family, each member of which is filled with unspoken words, unfulfilled dreams and unrequited longing.  Hannah may be the first witness revealed to readers, but this masterfully written story doesn't hinge on a single witness. Instead, Ng weaves effortlessly between each of the Lees, who, in turn and all at once, reveal nothing and everything, too often with a brief glance or deafening silence.

One morning, 16-year-old Lydia doesn't come down to breakfast. The only clue to Lydia's whereabouts lies with Hannah, who (like everything else) keeps it to herself. It takes a few days, but the Lees get their answer — and it changes their lives forever.

The story is told in fluid time: past mixes with present, smoothly transitioning between them, and allusions to the future are few and far between but still delicious nuggets that suggest that life goes on.

The intimacy readers have with the Lees is immediate, with a longing of its own. Readers long to know Lydia's whereabouts, they long to comfort those grieving — and they long to shake those who need to be awoken from their frightful slumber.

Ng does something that is, like the story, very subtle: she uses very little dialogue. Most of the characters express themselves through thought or memory, silenced by their own fears and apprehensions. The Lees don't talk to each other. They don't talk to other people. Do they have their own voices? Do they know how to use them?

Their lives are as small as their voices, their dreams as fragile as their silence. Can they dare to dream, to reach beyond what's been allotted to them by their small town, by its small minds?

The novel is set in the mid-20th century, which I'd like to think is a different time. I'd like to think we're more enlightened, more inclusive, less shocked by and less insulated from different cultures. I doubt current events would buoy my hopes. By seeing how things were, we can better see if how things are is how they really should be.

Part of my enjoyment is that I came to the story with little more than the dust jacket description, and the discovery of — well, everything — was rewarding. There is so much I want to say, but I don't want to reveal too much of its magic. It's an amazing read, and I recommend it highly.

Have you read it? What do you think? Let me know!

Monday, September 14, 2015

Autumn is Nigh! Read Fast for Your Summer Reading Program!

We're getting down to the wire here at the Summer Reading Club headquarters: the end is near! Well, the end of summer reading is approaching. (For this club, it's the Sunday of or after the autumnal equinox. This year, that's September 27, the first day of Fall for the Book!)

How are you doing with your reading? Have you deviated from your list, attracted by shiny new (or new to you) books? Or are you focused on what you want to read, book reviews be damned?

I'm cheating on my original book list. (As usual.)

I like the idea of a guideline, but I also like to deviate from my pre-approved script of reading when I read about a "great new book" from Book Riot, stumble across a great book in the library or one of my reading cohorts lets me know what's on their nightstand or Audible list.

Since Memorial Day, I've consumed about 3o books, and I have bookmarks in a few others.

Here are the books currently on my nightstand:
  1. The Monk
  2. Prisoner of the Devil
  3. The Dalai Lama's Cat
  4. Alexander Hamilton
  5. Everything I Never Told You
  6. The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work
  7. Better than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Life 
  8. The Book of the Unknown: Tales of the Thirty-Six
A couple of those books have deadlines  — I plan to meet one of the authors, for example, and I'm seeing a musical based on another of the books. The rest will be read when I pick them up, which is a nice way to approach a book.
How has your reading progressed? Are you keeping to your list, or are you veering off when something else good comes along? Let me know!