Everything I Never Told You

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Book & Author

everything_I_never“Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.” So begins this exquisite novel about a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio. Lydia is the favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee, and her parents are determined that she will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue. But when Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together is destroyed, tumbling them into chaos. A profoundly moving story of family, secrets, and longing, Everything I Never Told You is both a gripping page-turner and a sensitive family portrait, uncovering the ways in which mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, and husbands and wives struggle, all their lives, to understand one another. (From the Publisher)


Celeste-Ng-011Celeste Ng is the author of the novel Everything I Never Told You, which was a New York Times bestseller, a New York Times Notable Book of 2014, Amazon’s #1 Best Book of 2014, and named a best book of the year by over a dozen publications.  Everything I Never Told You was also the winner of the Massachusetts Book Award, the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature, the ALA’s Alex Award, and the Medici Book Club Prize, and was a finalist for numerous awards, including the Ohioana Award, the John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger Award, and the VCU Cabell First Novelist Award.

Celeste grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Shaker Heights, Ohio, in a family of scientists. Celeste attended Harvard University and earned an MFA from the University of Michigan (now the Helen Zell Writers’ Program at the University of Michigan), where she won the Hopwood Award.  Her fiction and essays have appeared in One Story, TriQuarterly, Bellevue Literary Review, the Kenyon Review Online, and elsewhere, and she is a recipient of the Pushcart Prize.
Currently, she lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts. (From the Author’s Website)

Quote from the book:

“The things that go unsaid are often the things that eat at you–whether because you didn’t get to have your say, or because the other person never got to hear you and really wanted to.”

“It would disappear forever from her memory of Lydia, the way memories of a lost loved one always smooth and simplify themselves, shedding complexities like scales.”



“It struck her then, as if someone had said it aloud: her mother was dead, and the only thing worth remembering about her, in the end, was that she cooked. Marilyn thought uneasily of her own life, of hours spent making breakfasts, serving dinners, packing lunches into neat paper bags.”
Discuss the relationship Marilyn and her mother have to cooking and their roles as stay-at-home mothers. Do you think one is happier or more satisfied?

There’s so much that the characters keep to themselves. What do you wish they had shared with one another? Do you think an ability to better express themselves would have changed the outcome of the book?


From the Author: I love a good soundtrack and the synergy that occurs when the right song and the right moment coincide. In putting together this playlist, I tried to stick to songs of the period of the book—songs that the characters themselves might have heard on their radios or their record players and that might have meant something to them.  — Celeste Ng

Celeste’s Playlist:

“Lay Lady Lay,” Bob Dylan (1969)

“Thirteen,” Big Star (1972)

“You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away,” The Beatles (1965)

“Alison,” Elvis Costello (1977)

“The Only Living Boy in New York,” Simon & Garfunkel (1970)

“Both Sides Now,” Joni Mitchell (1969)

“Wild Horses,” Rolling Stones (1971)

“Just Breathe,” Pearl Jam (2009)
From the Author: Okay, my long preamble about period music notwithstanding, I allowed myself one anachronism, because I wanted to end with a love song.

Discuss what songs you would include on a playlist for this book.  Create one and share it with your book club during your discussion.


Everything I Never Told You won The Alex Award.  The Alex Awards are given to ten books written for adults that have special appeal to young adults, ages 12 through 18.  Do you think this book would appeal to 12 – 18 year olds?  Why or why not?  Discuss in the comments.