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Saturday, April 18, 2015

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

I have recently read a number of books that fall outside of the realm of traditional murder mysteries but which have a crime at the center of the novel, and this is one of those books.

My mother recommended this to me as one of the books that her book group read that she thought I would enjoy.  It made the New York Times 100 notable books list as well, which is always a good sign.  The book opens with the death of a young woman, and then goes back and forth between the present day without her and the past.  I like the non-linear format, which is not a technique that works as well with a murder mystery.  But this is not a police procedural, it is the portrait of a family where one of them is murdered.

There are two themes that predominate in the story.  The first is the theme of alienation of first generation immigrants.  The story takes place in small town America and echoes the themes of alienation and otherness that Jhumpa Lahiri has explored so well.  The second theme is the oft written one of family dysfunction.  When dreams are squashed rather than freely released, there is hell to pay.  It could be read as an anthem for psychotherapy--deal with your problems rather than passing them on to your offspring, but I doubt that will happen.  In any case, it is a well written book with messages for everyone, but parents most of all.

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