Book Club: ‘Everything I Never Told You’ and ‘The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay’

^^ One I couldn’t put down, the other let me down. ^^

Like any responsible human, instead of finishing an article I have due in the morning, I figured a long book review was more pressing to complete in these final hours before Monday’s debut.

(Although this is a particularly good Monday since it’s my cousin’s birthday and I get to leave outrageously long voice mails singing loudly and terribly while she’s at school.)

So, do you want to good or the slightly less good review first? Either way we’re starting with Celeste Ng’s “Everything I Never Told You,” so thank you for your participation.

Recommended by M, I spent an entire five hour flight to Burbank devouring this book. The story follows a Chinese American family living in a small town in Ohio during the 1970s. In the first sentence, the “golden child” of the family, Lydia, dies under mysterious circumstances leading each family member to confront the relationships they misinterpreted, the history they tried to bury, and the past stories they failed to ever explain. As a reader, it’s both frustrating and exhilarating being the only one to know everyone’s full, honest story. I found myself unable to predict the book’s ending, and once I got there, I was left simultaneously heartbroken and hopeful.

I absolutely loved this novel, like loved loved this novel. It’s by far one of the best works of fiction to captures the complexities of growing up in an interracial family and get this, it’s only Ng’s debut novel! So if you love someone and can’t yet decide what to surprise them with for the holidays, might I recommend this gem.

***

As for “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay,” I have some thoughts. First off, this book is really beautifully written. Based in New York City on the cusp of World World II, the novel follows the rise of comic book revolutionaries and cousins Joseph Kavalier and Sam Clay. It starts with Joe’s magical escape from Prague as Hitler continues to restrict the lives of Jews in Europe. Upon his delivery to the cramped Brooklyn apartment of Sam and his mother, Joe is simultaneously swept up with his new freedom and anchored to the tragedy he left behind. After the pair’s midnight brainstorm of “The Escapist” super hero sets the comic industry on fire, Sam and Joe achieve nearly overnight fame. But as they continue to grow together and apart, they find their monetary wealth unable to pacify the ghosts of their pasts: The loss of Joe’s family and his abandonment of his true love Rosa Sachs, and Sam’s homosexuality.

There are lots of plot twists, magic, passion, escape, travel, betrayal, Joe and Sam’s shared song (that part is great), and of course, comics. But despite the first half pulling me in and holding you tight, I found the ending unsatisfying and hard to digest. Chabon does a great job of developing a vivid timeline of these two boys’ lives, but after pulling myself through 600 pages of Dicken-like description, I was angry there was not even a glimmer of a conclusion at the end. You mean I carted this novel around for months on the subway and it ends simply with *****************! You must be out of your damn mind!

On the other hand, the New York Times loved Chabon’s work so take what you will here.

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3 thoughts on “Book Club: ‘Everything I Never Told You’ and ‘The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay’

  1. I loved Kavalier and Klay. It took a couple weeks for me to actually get into it, but once I did I had many late nights where I’d read until 3:00 in the morning because I couldn’t put it down.

    • Earnest, I love that you loved this book. Between you and the NYT maybe I missed something? I just felt impatient by some of the flashbacks and curious more in the forward movement of Rosa and Sammy, and Sammy’s confrontation with his sexuality, and Joe’s years as a recluse. So in the end, with the card, was that Sammy saying yes to owning a join production company? Or was he trading his life with Joe in that moment?

  2. Pingback: Book Club: A Few Recommendations | The Curious Case of Carly Christine

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