Everything I Never Told You: A Novel by Celeste NgEverything I Never Told You: A Novel by Celeste Ng

Everything I Never Told You: A Novel

byCeleste Ng

Paperback | May 26, 2015

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New York Times Bestseller · A New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice · Winner of the Alex Award· Winner of the APALA Award for Fiction · NEA Big Read Selection 
NPR · San Francisco Chronicle · Entertainment Weekly · The Huffington Post  · Buzzfeed  · Amazon ·  Grantland · Booklist · St. Louis Post Dispatch · Shelf Awareness · Book Riot · School Library Journal ·  Bustle · Time Out New York · Mashable · Cleveland Plain Dealer

“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.
CELESTE NG grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Shaker Heights, Ohio. She attended Harvard University and earned an MFA from the University of Michigan. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with her husband and son. She is the author of Everything I Never Told You and Little Fires Everywhere.
Title:Everything I Never Told You: A NovelFormat:PaperbackDimensions:320 pages, 7.75 × 5.09 × 0.56 inPublished:May 26, 2015Publisher:Penguin Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0143127551

ISBN - 13:9780143127550


Rated 3 out of 5 by from I'd give it a 3.5 if I could I did enjoy this book, but I wouldn't exactly say I couldn't put it down. Honestly, for most of the book I didn't really like any of the characters BUT I think overall the book does a good job at demonstrating the importance of communication and not just jumping to conclusions. The book is less about Lydia dying and more about the lack of communication between a family. My heart did hurt for Lydia though. The ending is slightly disappointing though.
Date published: 2018-03-13
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great Read I really enjoyed this book. I loved how in-depth she was with each character. The perspective changes from one character to another were much quicker than the last few books I had read, but it was refreshing to read this style.. kind of like watching a tv show. Looking forward to reading more of her work
Date published: 2018-03-10
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Enjoyable read I enjoyed the plot and characters of this book, but was a little bit disappointed by the ending... somewhat left me hanging. #plumreview
Date published: 2018-03-05
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Not what I expected #plumreview After reading several positive reviews, I was looking forward to reading this book. The characters and plot were interesting. However, I was disappointed in the ending and lack of clarity. The ending did not fit with the relationships of the main characters.
Date published: 2018-02-25
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Suspenseful Read I really enjoyed Celeste Ng's book "Everything I Never Told You". I truly felt for her mother and the anguish she had to deal with. As a matter, I felt for everyone in this book. Well written, and one of those books that you just don't want to put down.
Date published: 2018-02-15
Rated 2 out of 5 by from disappointed I loved her other works. I'm so sad this didn't work for me.
Date published: 2018-01-31
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Not great This book was not what I was expecting and overall it was just .. depressing. Even the ending didn't make up for it. Would not recommend
Date published: 2018-01-25
Rated 3 out of 5 by from not the story you expect I thought this would be more of a straight mystery, but it was an interesting look at the racism faced by mixed race families in the 70s as well as a deep dive into the psyche of every member of the family.
Date published: 2018-01-23
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Good but...the cost of the secrets was not proportional to their value If the cost of the secrets had been lower the book would have been more believable and meaningful to share with my teen daughter.
Date published: 2018-01-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved it I loved this book. I felt like the author really thought out how to write this book. It felt almost like watching a TV show in that perspectives changed so quickly and seamlessly. The content was dense - definitely not a beach read - but well worth it in the end. It really makes you think and gives you a new perspective on relationships and life. I'm looking forward to her newest novel!
Date published: 2018-01-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Beautiful This was a beautiful book. I found it thoughtful and emotional, I loved the way the books looks at family relationships and the secrets we keep from each other (intentionally or not). While the story was heartbreaking I think it gives an important message.
Date published: 2018-01-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved it Finished this book in 13 hours ! I can not stop thinking of Lydia ! This is a must read for parents who push their kids to be something they wanted to be themselves. On my way out the door to buy the new one.
Date published: 2018-01-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A beautiful rendering This was one of my favourite reads of the year. Beautifully written and very emotional, allowing you to delve into the character's life.
Date published: 2018-01-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Beautiful Engaging story that unfolds in a beautiful and real way. I loved it. I'll read it again, and I'd recommend it a hundred times.
Date published: 2017-12-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from One of my favourites! This book was recommended by my psychology professor and I absolutely fell in love with it! It speaks volumes on the family dynamic. I related to one of the characters really well, which made me think a lot about my own family situation. Worth the read!
Date published: 2017-11-30
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A Family Torn Apart This book really made me appreciate the importance of family. Set against the backdrop of a child's death, we see how one family processes their grief and emotions in different way and how they manage to stay together through the impossible.
Date published: 2017-11-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from One of the best novels Celeste Ng is such a creative author that the story covers with American history, different cultural influences, races, family issues, education...etc. The story is so emotional and complicated with deep meaning. This is definitely not a typical novel that done by an Asian author.
Date published: 2017-10-10
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Interesting enough to want to keep reading The narrative structure is a little difficult to follow as the author switches character perspectives frequently, sometimes within the same paragraph, but it was still interesting enough to want to continue to read.
Date published: 2017-10-04
Rated 2 out of 5 by from It was alright I couldn't connect with the characters, and didn't feel any emotional aspect to it. Found it to be very slow at times.
Date published: 2017-09-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Read it for school Exceptional & very, very sad. Captures everything about broken families, everything we're familiar with. Read this for a university course on Asian North American Lit. and absolutely loved it.
Date published: 2017-09-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Awesomest Family Drama to read on Great and intense family drama, especially the racial tension, also the character Lydia reminded me of Memoirs of a Geisha protagonist Chiyo/Sayuri, with blue eyes <3 <3 <3 <3
Date published: 2017-08-22
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Reccomend! Excellent family drama, well put-together and heartbreaking in the isolation of each family member.
Date published: 2017-08-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved this novel Beautifully written debut novel. An honest tale about family and secrets. I look forward to reading more by this author.
Date published: 2017-08-17
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great read I enjoyed this much more than I thought I would which is always a pleasant surprise. It was beautifully written.
Date published: 2017-07-21
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Better than expected. I enjoyed this one more than I initially anticipated. If you're looking for a murder-mystery, keep looking. If you're looking for a story with deep character development, this is for you. The members of the Lee family are all tragic in that they are all, in many ways, victims of circumstances beyond their control. Marilyn is a white, blond homemaker born in the wrong decade who has always dreamed of being a doctor. James is small-town professor born to Chinese immigrants who has always dreamed of being like everyone else. They both try to live vicariously through their daughter, Lydia, who is crushed by the heavy weight of their expectations. As a result, their eldest child, a son named Nath who earned early acceptance to Harvard and who dreams of going to space, is never good enough, is never loved enough. Similarly, their youngest child, Hannah, is the forgotten child who learns to make herself small, hide in nooks and crannies, and often feels like she might as well be invisible. The tragic irony is that it is only through their inept coping mechanisms that they engage in as a result of Lydia's death that the family is able to find each other again. And find forgiveness.
Date published: 2017-07-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from So Good! I'm not much to read books outside of business but my book club chose it and I loved it! I couldn't put it down, the mystery story was captivating.
Date published: 2017-07-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Made Me Cry!! Somewhat heavy ideas (to be expected) written with jumps of time that keep it interesting to read, and effectively tell the story. Ng did a great job of capturing the characters' points of view – It was so well written, so it was hard to put this book down.
Date published: 2017-06-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful Very intriguing and moving. A must read.
Date published: 2017-05-24
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good Gripping Story A well told family story.
Date published: 2017-04-18
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Fantastic Great book that I could hardly put down. It is an amalgamation of several internal struggles told through incredible writing. Even with the flips back and forth between characters and time periods, I was never confused and only starved for more.
Date published: 2017-04-14
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Wow What a great book. So deep and rich. The characters are SO well written; it was refreshing. It was a little sad for me to get through this book (as a result, I'm only half way done) but I know it'll be worth it to finish.
Date published: 2017-04-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved it Right on. A good story with interesting and complex relationships between characters
Date published: 2017-03-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from loved it! amazing, amazing, amazing! I loved this book!
Date published: 2017-03-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Worth the read Very interesting perspective on family life and its complications. Great book.
Date published: 2017-03-23
Rated 4 out of 5 by from loved it interesting and a great read
Date published: 2017-03-21
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Slow but interesting The premise held a lot of promise for me, but I found it slow and somewhat hard to get into. I pushed through and was glad I finished it.
Date published: 2017-03-20
Rated 4 out of 5 by from I enjoyed this one more than I initially anticipated. If you're looking for a murder-mystery, keep looking. If you're looking for a story with deep character development, this is for you. The members of the Lee family are all tragic in that they are all, in many ways, victims of circumstances beyond their control. Marilyn is a white, blond homemaker born in the wrong decade who has always dreamed of being a doctor. James is small-town professor born to Chinese immigrants who has always dreamed of being like everyone else. They both try to live vicariously through their daughter, Lydia, who is crushed by the heavy weight of their expectations. As a result, their eldest child, a son named Nath who earned early acceptance to Harvard and who dreams of going to space, is never good enough, is never loved enough. Similarly, their youngest child, Hannah, is the forgotten child who learns to make herself small, hide in nooks and crannies, and often feels like she might as well be invisible. The tragic irony is that it is only through their inept coping mechanisms that they engage in as a result of Lydia's death that the family is able to find each other again. And find forgiveness.
Date published: 2017-03-15
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Exceeded Expectations Received this book as a gift for Christmas. I put off reading it since I wasn't sure how great it would be but I was surprised. This novel is amazing!
Date published: 2017-03-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Pleasantly surprised Really enjoyed this book! It took some time getting into, but once I got started, I couldn't keep it down.
Date published: 2017-03-10
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Good Read I wanted to love this book more. I think how one review described it as a "quiet read" is the perfect description. The found the plot slow in spots but I kept reading cause I wanted to know how everyone turned out in the end. It is a glimpse into how tragedy can affect peoples lives in different ways.
Date published: 2017-03-04
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Surprising I thought the premise of this book sounded intriguing and was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed it.
Date published: 2017-02-27
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Surprised how much I loved this The author captured the characters incredibly. This shared an opportunity to understand the upbringing of an Asian and mixed family culture and the prejudices experienced. Absolutely beautiful I was so attached to this family.
Date published: 2017-02-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Great Read! This book was unlike anything I have ever read, such a smart and interesting read.
Date published: 2017-02-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from New Favourite I absolutely loved this book. It was simultaneously heartbreaking and warming in a way? Really honest and genuine book that I think anyone would easily be able to relate to.
Date published: 2017-02-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Dark & Compelling Set in the 1970s in small-town Ohio, it's painful to imagine so vividly how different life was back then. This novel is well-written, dark and compelling. Everyone will be able to relate to Everything I Never Told You.
Date published: 2017-01-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Dark read This book is a sad story about a family. I enjoyed reading it because I hadn't read anything like this before.
Date published: 2017-01-04
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great Book!! I was so excited to read this book, and I'm happy that I did. It had all sorts of twists and turns when I was reading, I never knew what was really going to happen. I was thinking of the storyline going one way and it totally went other directions that were surprising (not a bad thing). The ending was amazing, but the book still left me with a few questions that haven't been answered. If you're into drama and a book with twists then this is for you.
Date published: 2017-01-02
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Quiet but wonderful This is definitely what I would call a quiet novel, but wonderful nonetheless. You're kept turning pages not because it is a thriller, but because you need to know more about how the characters and their relationships will develop.
Date published: 2016-12-28
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Not what I expected The story is an original take on a very unoriginal story, but lacked substance. It was a slow read for me.
Date published: 2016-12-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Beautiful book This book was powerful in its observations of what a family history means in each member's daily life--how single events can ripple out over time to create waves of behavior and patterns of reactions that seem to have no beginning or end. It's a shockingly realistic take on what it means to be a family. At the core of all family life is what has been said and done, but also what has been left unsaid. The characters a beautifully cast and each one's pain and fear can be readily felt, but each one is redeemed in a way that feels honest and true. This is also a beautiful meditation on human and family psychology--the complicated layers of parents and children and expectations and failed communication.
Date published: 2016-12-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Page turner Couldn't book this book down! Not much of a thriller but defintely wants you leaving more.
Date published: 2016-11-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved this Such a great read! I thought it was going to be more of a thriller/crime type novel but it was much more about different family dynamics. Could not put it down!!
Date published: 2016-11-25
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Must read for all family members 4.5 "So much will happen, that I would want to tell you". Such a perfectly sad story that so realistically shows all the perspectives of different family members. Because it's a book you can want so bad for them all to speak their mind and sort things out, but you know it doesn't work that way and that really it is hard to disappoint people with your true feelings rather than to give in and please them. A must read, relatable for anyone.
Date published: 2016-11-23
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Really great read! This was a great read! I was intrigued the whole time and really felt like I could identify with the characters, as I am half Asian and half White. This book has a deeper meaning that opens up a great discussion about race, stereotypes, and love.
Date published: 2016-11-19
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Could've Been Better I was super excited to read this book, especially being mixed-racial myself. I felt as if the author could have added a better twist or something else to enhance the story line since the concept of the book is really interesting. It was still well-written, just a little disappointed it wasn't as much of a page turner as I expected it to be. #plumreview
Date published: 2016-11-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Lovely Read I read this book about a month ago and loved it! It is about the death of a child of an interracial couple and their struggles to cope with the loss as well as racial tensions in the 70's. Very intriguing and moving story. A beautifully written quick read with hints of mystery and drama.
Date published: 2016-11-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from engaging Beautifully written and engaging family drama
Date published: 2016-11-08
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Nicely Written! When I first picked up this book I wasn’t sure what to expect. I thought it was going to be a suspenseful novel. And although there is a mystery, lydia’s death, I feel the main plot evolved more around family dynamics and the different relationships between each member of the family than the mystery itself. Saying that, the writing is very poetic. The characters are developed nicely. And the story is very emotional and thought-provoking. I think if you’re looking for a good contemporary drama you will really enjoy this book. However, if you pick it up hoping for a page-turning mystery you might be a little disappointed.
Date published: 2016-08-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved this book I bought this book on a whim. From the time I started reading I had a hard time putting it down. Beautifully written.
Date published: 2016-05-17
Rated 3 out of 5 by from okay This was a good book but the degree of what does not get said between the family was pretty extreme. I found it hard to relate.
Date published: 2016-01-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Powerfully Moving Story! Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng is an emotionally-gripping debut. Absolutely breathtaking! I haven’t read so much emotion in a book since Saint Anything (read in May 2015). Interestingly enough, both books are similar in the theme of teens not having their voices heard, but still very different in the story told. Ng makes the smooth transition from present to past to present; the same is true for the changing POV’s. She brings out empathy in the reader and I found myself appreciating the privilege I have. I want to share a quote from the first line of the first chapter which really stood out to me: “Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet. 1977, May 3, six thirty in the morning…” (page 1) I found myself asking why did the author decide to start the novel in this way? From the summary this isn’t a spoiler, the reader for the most part goes into the novel knowing Lydia is dead (though not how or why). Still, the reader doesn’t find out about this death like the Lee family. I came to the conclusion that perhaps Ng wants the reader to focus on how the family got to this point. How and why did this happen; could it have been prevented? As I progressed into the novel, I found that Lydia’s death was the climatic point of this family’s story, even though the reader only knows their story from the point of her death onwards. Lydia is the centre of her family’s universe, holding them together as well as shouldering a great burden. The POV’s change between Marilyn, James, Nath, Hannah, and briefly Lydia. The reader lives through the summer of 1977 as well as past memories of the Lee family. This also made Lydia’s death the pivotal point that much more certain to me. Marilyn has always wanted to be a doctor but ends up a homemaker, the thing her mother felt most important to achieve and something Marilyn hated the most. James grew up without friends, never fitting in anywhere. Both parents try to live their dreams through Lydia – becoming a doctor and being popular in school. Nath loves space but finds it frustrating to get the attention away from Lydia and onto him. He’s counting down the minutes until he leaves for college in the fall. Lydia dreads this moment; she feels like Nath is the only one who truly understands her feelings. Hannah is a ghost, the child always forgotten, but also someone who notices everything. From my impression of the synopsis I expected Lydia to actually be popular with lots of friends, which wasn’t the case here. She’s surrounded by loneliness; the frustration of not being heard is slowly building up. I would have liked more POV’s with Hannah, something I expected going into this novel. In a way, this fits with that ghostly image of Hannah, but I did think this novel would centre around her – the forgotten child. Something interesting to add, I found the writing would talk about a character/place/action as if the reader were a small child looking in on a family of dolls in a dollhouse (the Lee family being the dolls). An out-of-body experience. I find Ng’s writing extraordinary in that matter. Sometimes I even felt like a ghost embodied the pages – perhaps Lydia, who while not physically present in summer 1977, remains as a ghostly presence till the story’s end. There are so many messages that can be taken from Everything I Never Told You: empathy, damaging stereotypes, suicide, teens not being heard, grief. Whether this is a book you might or might not usually read, Ng has the ability to draw you in. A powerfully moving story. It’s so enthralling that just thinking about the ending while writing this review brings back those emotions.
Date published: 2015-11-09
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Enjoyed it - a quick read on a Sunday Celeste Ng wrote a unique book about interracial marriage and its challenges. It was essentially a family drama with grave consequences. I felt the book was a bit melancholy and the characters could have been happier had they communicate better. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the book and I look forward to reading more books by Celeste Ng.
Date published: 2015-11-09
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A page turner Ng spins a wonderful tale that at first glance seems to focus on the mystery at hand, however the reader quickly learns that it's really about each of the five family members and their need to fit in and to be seen as special. It's about our dreams and what we think people want us to be and then finding out who we really are. A great read.
Date published: 2015-08-30
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Everything they could never tell us, revealed "Everything I Never Told You" has the directness of an open letter, the personableness of a tell-all memoir, the solemnity of a confession, and the juiciness of a gossip session. It's a family drama shrouded in mystery and an exposé on the dysfunctions of a family unit, especially when secrets, obligations, identity and race play a huge part in defining their relationships with one another. It's weird to say this but I read this novel in the voice of Sarah Koenig, the host of that popular investigative podcast Serial. Even though the narrative is told from the personal and relatable perspectives that seamlessly segued from one to the next, it felt like there was an overarching voiceover that had an insight into the Lee family - someone who was looking at the past to explain the present, someone digging beneath the layers and who was putting together the pieces of a moving puzzle for us. Here was a person who was revealing everything they never could tell us. And what a deeply affecting story it is.
Date published: 2015-08-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Absolutely AMAZING! This book....where do I start?? Celeste Ng does an absolutely fantastic job of revealing to us the many hidden issues within a family- issues among sibling, between mother and father, and between parents and children. She helps us understand the family dynamics which lead to dysfunction and how this is passed on to our children. She does all this while keeping us on the edge of our seats with this compelling story. I could not put down this book! I was HOOKED from chapter 1. Just absolutely brilliant!
Date published: 2015-02-11

Read from the Book

***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected proof***Copyright © 2014 Celeste Ngone  Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet. 1977, May 3, six thirty in the morning, no one knows anything but this innocuous fact: Lydia is late for breakfast. As always, next to her cereal bowl, her mother has placed a sharpened pencil and Lydia’s physics homework, six problems flagged with small ticks. Driving to work, Lydia’s father nudges the dial toward WXKP, Northwest Ohio’s Best News Source, vexed by the crackles of static. On the stairs, Lydia’s brother yawns, still twined in the tail end of his dream. And in her chair in the corner of the kitchen, Lydia’s sister hunches moon-eyed over her cornflakes, sucking them to pieces one by one, waiting for Lydia to appear. It’s she who says, at last, “Lydia’s taking a long time today.”Upstairs, Marilyn opens her daughter’s door and sees the bed unslept in: neat hospital corners still pleated beneath the comforter, pillow still fluffed and convex. Nothing seems out of place. Mustard-colored corduroys tangled on the floor, a single rainbow-striped sock. A row of science fair ribbons on the wall, a postcard of Einstein. Lydia’s duffel bag crumpled on the floor of the closet. Lydia’s green bookbag slouched against her desk. Lydia’s bottle of Baby Soft atop the dresser, a sweet, powdery, loved-baby scent still in the air. But no Lydia.Marilyn closes her eyes. Maybe, when she opens them, Lydia will be there, covers pulled over her head as usual, wisps of hair trailing from beneath. A grumpy lump bundled under the bedspread that she’d somehow missed before. I was in the bathroom, Mom. I went downstairs for some water. I was lying right here all the time. Of course, when she looks, nothing has changed. The closed curtains glow like a blank television screen.Downstairs, she stops in the doorway of the kitchen, a hand on each side of the frame. Her silence says everything. “I’ll check outside,” she says at last. “Maybe for some reason—” She keeps her gaze trained on the floor as she heads for the front door, as if Lydia’s footprints might be crushed into the hall runner.Nath says to Hannah, “She was in her room last night. I heard her radio playing. At eleven thirty.” He stops, remembering that he had not said goodnight.“Can you be kidnapped if you’re sixteen?” Hannah asks. Nath prods at his bowl with a spoon. Cornflakes wilt and sink into clouded milk.Their mother steps back into the kitchen, and for one glorious fraction of a second Nath sighs with relief: there she is, Lydia, safe and sound. It happens sometimes—their faces are so alike you’d see one in the corner of your eye and mistake her for the other: the same elfish chin and high cheekbones and left-cheek dimple, the same thin-shouldered build. Only the hair color is different, Lydia’s ink-black instead of their mother’s honey-blond. He and Hannah take after their father—once a woman stopped the two of them in the grocery store and asked, “Chinese?” and when they said yes, not wanting to get into halves and wholes, she’d nodded sagely. “I knew it,” she said. “By the eyes.” She’d tugged the corner of each eye outward with a fingertip. But Lydia, defying genetics, somehow has her mother’s blue eyes, and they know this is one more reason she is their mother’s favorite. And their father’s, too.Then Lydia raises one hand to her brow and becomes his mother again.“The car’s still here,” she says, but Nath had known it would be. Lydia can’t drive; she doesn’t even have a learner’s permit yet. Last week she’d surprised them all by failing the exam, and their father wouldn’t even let her sit in the driver’s seat without it. Nath stirs his cereal, which has turned to sludge at the bottom of his bowl. The clock in the front hall ticks, then strikes seven thirty. No one moves.“Are we still going to school today?” Hannah asks.Marilyn hesitates. Then she goes to her purse and takes out her keychain with a show of efficiency. “You’ve both missed the bus. Nath, take my car and drop Hannah off on your way.” Then: “Don’t worry. We’ll find out what’s going on.” She doesn’t look at either of them. Neither looks at her.When the children have gone, she takes a mug from the cupboard, trying to keep her hands still. Long ago, when Lydia was a baby, Marilyn had once left her in the living room, playing on a quilt, and went into the kitchen for a cup of tea. She had been only eleven months old. Marilyn took the kettle off the stove and turned to find Lydia standing in the doorway. She had started and set her hand down on the hot burner. A red, spiral welt rose on her palm, and she touched it to her lips and looked at her daughter through watering eyes. Standing there, Lydia was strangely alert, as if she were taking in the kitchen for the first time. Marilyn didn’t think about missing those first steps, or how grown up her daughter had become. The thought that flashed through her mind wasn’t How did I miss it? but What else have you been hiding? Nath had pulled up and wobbled and tipped over and toddled right in front of her, but she didn’t remember Lydia even beginning to stand. Yet she seemed so steady on her bare feet, tiny fingers just peeking from the ruffled sleeve of her romper. Marilyn often had her back turned, opening the refrigerator or turning over the laundry. Lydia could have begun walking weeks ago, while she was bent over a pot, and she would not have known.She had scooped Lydia up and smoothed her hair and told her how clever she was, how proud her father would be when he came home. But she’d felt as if she’d found a locked door in a familiar room: Lydia, still small enough to cradle, had secrets. Marilyn might feed her and bathe her and coax her legs into pajama pants, but already parts of her life were curtained off. She kissed Lydia’s cheek and pulled her close, trying to warm herself against her daughter’s small body.Now Marilyn sips tea and remembers that surprise.The high school’s number is pinned to the corkboard beside the refrigerator, and Marilyn pulls the card down and dials, twisting the cord around her finger while the phone rings.“Middlewood High,” the secretary says on the fourth ring. “This is Dottie.”She recalls Dottie: a woman built like a sofa cushion, who still wore her fading red hair in a beehive. “Good morning,” she begins, and falters. “Is my daughter in class this morning?” Dottie makes a polite cluck of impatience. “To whom am I speaking, please?”It takes her a moment to remember her own name. “Marilyn. Marilyn Lee. My daughter is Lydia Lee. Tenth grade.”“Let me look up her schedule. First period—” A pause. “Eleventh-grade physics?”“Yes, that’s right. With Mr. Kelly.”“I’ll have someone run down to that classroom and check.” There’s a thud as the secretary sets the receiver down on the desk.Marilyn studies her mug, the pool of water it has made on the counter. A few years ago, a little girl had crawled into a storage shed and suffocated. After that the police department sent a flyer to every house: If your child is missing, look for him right away. Check washing machines and clothes dryers, automobile trunks, toolsheds, any places he might have crawled to hide. Call police immediately if your child cannot be found.“Mrs. Lee?” the secretary says. “Your daughter was not in her first-period class. Are you calling to excuse her absence?” Marilyn hangs up without replying. She replaces the phone number on the board, her damp fingers smudging the ink so that the digits blur as if in a strong wind, or underwater.She checks every room, opening every closet. She peeks into the empty garage: nothing but an oil spot on the concrete and the faint, heady smell of gasoline. She’s not sure what she’s looking for: Incriminating footprints? A trail of breadcrumbs? When she was twelve, an older girl from her school had disappeared and turned up dead. Ginny Barron. She’d worn saddle shoes that Marilyn had desperately coveted. She’d gone to the store to buy cigarettes for her father, and two days later they found her body by the side of the road, halfway to Charlottesville, strangled and naked.Now Marilyn’s mind begins to churn. The summer of Son of Sam has just begun—though the papers have only recently begun to call him by that name—and even in Ohio, headlines blare the latest shooting. In a few months, the police will catch David Berkowitz, and the country will focus again on other things: the death of Elvis, the new Atari, Fonzie soaring over a shark. At this moment, though, when dark-haired New Yorkers are buying blond wigs, the world seems to Marilyn a terrifying and random place. Things like that don’t happen here, she reminds herself. Not in Middlewood, which calls itself a city but is really just a tiny college town of three thousand, where driving an hour gets you only to Toledo, where a Saturday night out means the roller rink or the bowling alley or the drive-in, where even Middlewood Lake, at the center of town, is really just a glorified pond. (She is wrong about this last one: it is a thousand feet across, and it is deep.) Still, the small of her back prickles, like beetles marching down her spine.Inside, Marilyn pulls back the shower curtain, rings screeching against rod, and stares at the white curve of the bathtub. She searches all the cabinets in the kitchen. She looks inside the pantry, the coat closet, the oven. Then she opens the refrigerator and peers inside. Olives. Milk. A pink foam package of chicken, a head of iceberg, a cluster of jade-colored grapes. She touches the cool glass of the peanut butter jar and closes the door, shaking her head. As if Lydia would somehow be inside.Morning sun fills the house, creamy as lemon chiffon, lighting the insides of cupboards and empty closets and clean, bare floors. Marilyn looks down at her hands, empty too and almost aglow in the sunlight. She lifts the phone and dials her husband’s number.   For James, in his office, it is still just another Tuesday, and he clicks his pen against his teeth. A line of smudgy typing teeters slightly uphill: Serbia was one of the most powerful of the Baltic nations. He crosses out Baltic, writes Balkan, turns the page. Archduke France Ferdinand was assassinated by members of Black Ann. Franz, he thinks. Black Hand. Had these students ever opened their books? He pictures himself at the front of the lecture hall, pointer in hand, the map of Europe unfurled behind him. It’s an intro class, “America and the World Wars”; he doesn’t expect depth of knowledge or critical insight. Just a basic understanding of the facts, and one student who can spell Czechoslovakia correctly.He closes the paper and writes the score on the front page—sixty-five out of one hundred—and circles it. Every year as summer approaches, the students shuffle and rustle; sparks of resentment sizzle up like flares, then sputter out against the windowless walls of the lecture hall. Their papers grow half hearted, paragraphs trailing off, sometimes midsentence, as if the students could not hold a thought that long. Was it a waste, he wonders. All the lecture notes he’s honed, all the color slides of MacArthur and Truman and the maps of Guadalcanal. Nothing more than funny names to giggle at, the whole course just one more requirement to check off the list before they graduated. What else could he expect from this place? He stacks the paper with the others and drops the pen on top. Through the window he can see the small green quad and three kids in blue jeans tossing a Frisbee.When he was younger, still junior faculty, James was often mistaken for a student himself. That hasn’t happened in years. He’ll be forty-six next spring; he’s tenured, a few silver hairs now mixed in among the black. Sometimes, though, he’s still mistaken for other things. Once, a receptionist at the provost’s office thought he was a visiting diplomat from Japan and asked him about his flight from Tokyo. He enjoys the surprise on people’s faces when he tells them he’s a professor of American history. “Well, I am American,” he says when people blink, a barb of defensiveness in his tone.Someone knocks: his teaching assistant, Louisa, with a stack of papers.“Professor Lee. I didn’t mean to bother you, but your door was open.” She sets the essays on his desk and pauses. “These weren’t very good.”“No. My half weren’t either. I was hoping you had all the As in your stack.”Louisa laughs. When he’d first seen her, in his graduate seminar last term, she’d surprised him. From the back she could have been his daughter: they had almost the same hair, hanging dark and glossy down to the shoulder blades, the same way of sitting with elbows pulled in close to the body. When she turned around, though, her face was completely her own, narrow where Lydia’s was wide, her eyes brown and steady. “Professor Lee?” she had said, holding out her hand. “I’m Louisa Chen.” Eighteen years at Middlewood College, he’d thought, and here was the first Oriental student he’d ever had. Without realizing it, he had found himself smiling.Then, a week later, she came to his office. “Is that your family?” she’d asked, tilting the photo on his desk toward her. There was a pause as she studied it. Everyone did the same thing, and that was why he kept the photo on display. He watched her eyes move from his photographic face to his wife’s, then his children’s, then back again. “Oh,” she said after a moment, and he could tell she was trying to hide her confusion. “Your wife’s—not Chinese?”It was what everyone said. But from her he had expected something different.“No,” he said, and straightened the frame so that it faced her a little more squarely, a perfect forty-five degree angle to the front of the desk. “No, she isn’t.”Still, at the end of the fall semester, he’d asked her to act as a grader for his undergraduate lecture. And in April, he’d asked her to be the teaching assistant for his summer course. “I hope the summer students will be better,” Louisa says now. “A few people insisted that the Cape-to-Cairo Railroad was in Europe. For college students, they have surprising trouble with geography.”“Well, this isn’t Harvard, that’s for sure,” James says. He pushes the two piles of essays into one and evens them, like a deck of cards, against the desktop. “Sometimes I wonder if it’s all a waste.”“You can’t blame yourself if the students don’t try. And they’re not all so bad. A few got As.” Louisa blinks at him, her eyes suddenly serious. “Your life is not a waste.”James had meant only the intro course, teaching these students who, year after year, didn’t care to learn even the basic timeline. She’s twenty-three, he thinks; she knows nothing about life, wasted or otherwise. But it’s a nice thing to hear.“Stay still,” he says. “There’s something in your hair.” Her hair is cool and a little damp, not quite dry from her morning shower. Louisa holds quite still, her eyes open and fixed on his face. It’s not a flower petal, as he’d first thought. It’s a ladybug, and as he picks it out, it tiptoes, on threadlike yellow legs, to hang upside down from his fingernail.“Damn things are everywhere this time of year,” says a voice from the doorway, and James looks up to see Stanley Hewitt leaning through. He doesn’t like Stan—a florid ham hock of a man who talks to him loudly and slowly, as if he’s hard of hearing, who makes stupid jokes that start George Washington, Buffalo Bill, and Spiro Agnew walk into a bar . . .“Did you want something, Stan?” James asks. He’s acutely conscious of his hand, index finger and thumb outstretched as if pointing a popgun at Louisa’s shoulder, and pulls it back.“Just wanted to ask a question about the dean’s latest memo,” Stanley says, holding up a mimeographed sheet. “Didn’t mean to interrupt anything.”“I have to get going anyway,” Louisa says. “Have a nice morning, Professor Lee. I’ll see you tomorrow. You too, Professor Hewitt.” As she slides past Stanley into the hallway, James sees that she’s blushing, and his own face grows hot. When she is gone, Stanley seats himself on the corner of James’s desk.“Good-looking girl,” he says. “She’ll be your assistant this summer too, no?”“Yes.” James unfolds his hand as the ladybug moves onto his fingertip, walking the path of his fingerprint, around and around in whorls and loops. He wants to smash his fist into the middle of Stanley’s grin, to feel Stanley’s slightly crooked front tooth slice his knuckles. Instead he smashes the ladybug with his thumb. The shell snaps between his fingers, like a popcorn hull, and the insect crumbles to sulfur-colored powder. Stanley keeps running his finger along the spines of James’s books. Later James will long for the ignorant calm of this moment, for that last second when Stan’s leer was the worst problem on his mind. But for now, when the phone rings, he is so relieved at the interruption that at first he doesn’t hear the anxiety in Marilyn’s voice.“James?” she says. “Could you come home?”   The police tell them lots of teenagers leave home with no warning. Lots of times, they say, the girls are mad at their parents and the parents don’t even know. Nath watches them circulate in his sister’s room. He expects talcum powder and feather dusters, sniffing dogs, magnifying glasses. Instead the policemen just look: at the posters thumbtacked above her desk, the shoes on the floor, the half-opened bookbag. Then the younger one places his palm on the rounded pink lid of Lydia’s perfume bottle, as if cupping a child’s head in his hand.Most missing-girl cases, the older policeman tells them, resolve themselves within twenty-four hours. The girls come home by themselves.“What does that mean?” Nath says. “Most? What does that mean?”

Bookclub Guide

1. Discuss the relationships between Nath, Lydia, and Hannah. How do the siblings both understand and mystify one another?2. Why do you think Lydia is the favorite child of James and Marilyn? How does this pressure affect Lydia, and what kind of impact do you think it has on Nath and Hannah? Do you think it is more difficult for Lydia to be the favorite, or for Nath and Hannah, who are often overlooked by their parents?3. “So part of him wanted to tell Nath that he knew: what it was like to be teased, what it was like to never fit in. The other part of him wanted to shake his son, to slap him. To shape him into something different. . . . When Marilyn asked what happened, James said merely, with a wave of the hand, ‘Some kids teased him at the pool yesterday. He needs to learn to take a joke.’” How did you react to the “Marco Polo” pool scene with James and Nath? What do you think of James’s decision?4. Discuss a situation in which you’ve felt like an outsider. How do the members of the Lee family deal with being measured against stereotypes and others’ perceptions?5. What is the meaning of the novel’s title? To whom do the “I” and “you” refer?6. What would have happened if Lydia had reached the dock? Do you think she would have been able to change her parents’ views and expectations of her?7. This novel says a great deal about the influence our parents can have on us. Do you think the same issues will affect the next generation of Lees? How did your parents influence your childhood?8. “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?9. The footprint on the ceiling brings Nath and Lydia closer when they are young, and later, Hannah and James discover it together and laugh. What other objects bring the characters closer together or drive them further apart?10. 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?

Editorial Reviews

Alexander Chee, The New York Times Book Review:“If we know this story, we haven’t seen it yet in American fiction, not until now… Ng has set two tasks in this novel’s doubled heart—to be exciting, and to tell a story bigger than whatever is behind the crime. She does both by turning the nest of familial resentments into at least four smaller, prickly mysteries full of secrets the family members won’t share… What emerges is a deep, heartfelt portrait of a family struggling with its place in history, and a young woman hoping to be the fulfillment of that struggle. This is, in the end, a novel about the burden of being the first of your kind—a burden you do not always survive.”Los Angeles Times:“Excellent…an accomplished debut… heart-wrenching…Ng deftly pulls together the strands of this complex, multigenerational novel. Everything I Never Told You is an engaging work that casts a powerful light on the secrets that have kept an American family together—and that finally end up tearing it apart.”Boston Globe:“Wonderfully moving…Emotionally precise…A beautifully crafted study of dysfunction and grief…[This book] will resonate with anyone who has ever had a family drama.”San Francisco Chronicle:“A subtle meditation on gender, race and the weight of one generation’s unfulfilled ambitions upon the shoulders—and in the heads—of the next… Ng deftly and convincingly illustrates the degree to which some miscommunications can never quite be rectified.”O, The Oprah Magazine:“Cleverly crafted, emotionally perceptive… Ng sensitively dramatizes issues of gender and race that lie at the heart of the story… Ng’s themes of assimilation are themselves deftly interlaced into a taut tale of ever deepening and quickening suspense.” Los Angeles Review of Books:“Ng moves gracefully back and forth in time, into the aftermath of the tragedy as well as the distant past, and into the consciousness of each member of the family, creating a series of mysteries and revelations that lead back to the original question: what happened to Lydia?...Ng is masterful in her use of the omniscient narrator, achieving both a historical distance and visceral intimacy with each character’s struggles and failures…On the surface, Ng’s storylines are nothing new. There is a mysterious death, a family pulled apart by misunderstanding and grief, a struggle to fit into the norms of society, yet in the weaving of these threads she creates a work of ambitious complexity. In the end, this novel movingly portrays the burden of difference at a time when difference had no cultural value…Compelling.”Entertainment Weekly:“Both a propulsive mystery and a profound examination of a mixed-race family, Ng’s explosive debut chronicles the plight of Marilyn and James Lee after their favored daughter is found dead in a lake.”Marie Claire:“The mysterious circumstances of 16-year-old Lydia Lee’s tragic death have her loved ones wondering how, exactly, she spent her free time. This ghostly debut novel calls to mind The Lovely Bones.”Huffington Post:“A powerhouse of a debut novel, a literary mystery crafted out of shimmering prose and precise, painful observation about racial barriers, the burden of familial expectations, and the basic human thirst for belonging… Ng’s novel grips readers from page one with the hope of unraveling the mystery behind Lydia’s death—and boy does it deliver, on every front.”Chris Schluep, Parade:“The first chapter of Celeste Ng’s debut novel is difficult—the oldest daughter in a family is dead—but what follows is a brilliantly written, surprisingly uplifting exploration of striving in the face of alienation and of the secrets we keep from others. This could be my favorite novel of the year.”Kevin Nguyen, Grantland:“The emotional core of Celeste Ng’s debut is what sets it apart. The different ways in which the Lee family handles Lydia’s death create internal friction, and most impressive is the way Ng handles racial politics. With a deft hand, she loads and unpacks the implications of being the only Chinese American family in a small town in Ohio.”Cleveland Plain-Dealer:“Beautiful and poignant…. deftly drawn….It’s hard to believe that this is a debut novel for Celeste Ng. She tackles the themes of family dynamics, gender and racial stereotyping, and the weight of expectations, all with insight made more powerful through understatement. She has an exact, sophisticated touch with her prose. The sentences are straightforward. She evokes emotions through devastatingly detailed observations.”Minneapolis Star Tribune:“Perceptive…a skillful and moving portrayal of a family in pain…It is to Ng’s credit that it is sometimes difficult for the reader to keep going; the pain and unhappiness is palpable. But it is true to the Lees, and Ng tells all.”St. Louis Post-Dispatch:“Impressive… In its evocation of a time and place and society largely gone but hardly forgotten, Everything I Never Told You tells much that today’s reader should learn, ponder and appreciate.”Amanda Nelson, Book Riot:“On the surface, this is about a mixed-race Asian-American family dealing with and trying to solve the mysterious death of their favorite teenaged daughter in ‘70s Ohio (this isn’t a spoiler, it happens in the first sentence). What it’s really about all the ways we can be an ‘other’—in society, in our own marriages, in our jobs, and to our parents or children. It’s also about pressure—the pressure to be with people who are like ourselves, and to fit in, and to be everything our parents want us to be. It’s about giving up your career to become a wife and mother, and what that means and doesn’t mean. It’s about dealing with prejudice. It’s about secrets and happiness and misery, and all the things we never tell the people we love. It’s about everything, is what I’m saying, and not a single word is wasted or superfluous.”