“Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.” So starts this character driven debut novel full of family dynamics and secrets. Set in the 70’s, Lydia Lee is the favourite middle child in a mixed race family. She has inherited her mother’s blue eyes and her father’s jet black hair. For some reason, Lydia has become her parents’ hope for the future and the embodiment of their unfulfilled dreams. Her brother and sister are on the fringes but have valuable information about what may have happened to her. On the surface it appears that this slightly dysfunctional family is mostly ok, but when Lydia is found floating in the lake the novel slowly reveals what was hiding under the surface all along. The title becomes an echoing refrain that brings up the truth and reveals what was hidden.
This haunting novel grew on me. Because it begins with the main event, the story is told in flashbacks with small reveals that gradually inform the reader. It is compelling in a quiet sort of way. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold is similar but I found it to be much more of a page turner and overall more profound and compelling. However, Everything I Never Told You is a sensitive and elegant cautionary tale about how families can struggle all their lives to really understand one another.