Everything I never told you
This is a very emotional first novel about a Chinese-American mixed family in the 50ies up to the 70ies of the last century. It revolves round daughter Lydia and her death by drowning shortly after her 17th birthday. In flahbacks we learn how her parents, the American-born young professor James of Chinese origin and the all-American blonde blue-eyed student Marilyn, met. Although Marilyn always wanted to be a doctor and not a typical American housewife, she becomes exactly that, when the children Nath and Lydia are born.
Once she tries to escape back to college and her career, but when she discovers she is pregnant again, she returns to her family. From that moment on Lydia does everything to please her mother to keep her from disappearing again. This means, she has to study hard, constantly pushed by her over-ambitious mother, who wants her daughter to fulfill her mother´s career dreams. James on the other hand is too weak to stop his wife. All he wishes for his daughter is to blend in, have friends unlike his own lonely youth.
This complicated and in the end disastrous family constellation is the main narrative element, the other are the difficulties, “orientals” at that time had in American society, forever shunned by “real” Americans, specially in a small town.
And here I have my serious reservations. The whining, self-pitying tone, in which Ng describes the struggles of her family to blend in, seem a bit blue-eyed, sorry for the pun. Ng with her hardly 30 years of age overdoes it just too much. She hides behind the youngest daughter Hannah, neglected, but a keen and sharp-eyed observer of her family.