“Furious at the smallness of her mother’s life.”

Celeste Ng, Everything I Never Told You

Context: Marilyn Lee is going through her mother’s things, and she realises just how small her mother’s life as an abandoned housewife was. Her mother had never wanted Marilyn to be more. She wanted for Marilyn what she lost: a husband and a cookie cutter life.

I read this book last year, and I always knew I’d read it again, I just never thought I’d read it again so soon, but this book happens to be the book for my next book club meeting.

I love this quote because it says so much about Marilyn and her pain in that one sentence. It’s also very sad that her mother’s life did seem so small to her in the end. It’s also an interesting portrayal of the changing social attitudes during that time (1960’s) about women and their role in the home and in society.

“Nothing left but you, alone, and empty space.”

Celeste Ng, Everything I Never Told You

Context: Marilyn Lee is thinking about her life up to this point. She thinks about how she’s given her all to her marriage and family and yet she is left with nothing. She is in pain.

This quote stuck out to me because I’ve sometimes felt the same. A deep, unexplained loneliness that won’t leave me alone. Unbidden, an image of a memory comes. I’m still a kid and my parents are walking ahead without me. Between them is my older brother. I am left trailing behind because I have yet again failed them in some way while my brother has proven himself as the star pupil. Funny, isn’t it? How my life is so easily summed up as a younger sibling shrivelling in her older sibling’s shadow. When you put it that way, it sounds trite, overdone. But it is still what made me, Me. Just like how my older brother’s cares and worries now are tainted by the great weight of expectations–made all the greater by his little sister’s failure to carry her share–placed on his shoulders. I don’t know what it’s like to be him–to have to live up to these expectations and feeling less if he doesn’t.

If I were to talk to him about all this now, he’d laugh. He’d call me an idiot. It would be so like him to shrug these ridiculous ideas off because he is better at it.