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Book Clubbing

Introduction

Everything I Never Told You
by Celeste Ng

Title

Author

Author Picture Celeste Ng

Celeste Ng

©Kevin Day

Author Interview and Reading

About the Book

Everything I Never Told You is the story of the Lees, a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio. Marilyn and James are determined that Lydia, the middle and favorite child, will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue: for Marilyn, that her daughter becomes a doctor; for James, that Lydia is popular at school, a girl with a busy social life and the center of every party.

When Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together is destroyed. James, consumed by guilt, sets out on a reckless path that may destroy his marriage. Marilyn, devastated and vengeful, is determined to find a responsible party, no matter what the cost. Lydia’s older brother, Nathan, is certain that the neighborhood bad boy, Jack, is somehow involved. But it’s the youngest of the family—Hannah—who observes far more than anyone realizes and who may be the only one who knows the truth about what happened.

About the Author

Celeste Ng (pronounced “-ing”) is a writer in Cambridge, Massachusetts.   Everything I Never Told You, is her debut novel, has won multiple awards and was a New York Times bestseller, Amazon's #1 Best Book of 2014, and on the Best Book of the Year lists of over a dozen outlets. 
Celeste Ng was born in Pittsburgh, PA but at the age of ten moved to Shaker Heights, OH with her family that included her physicist father and chemist mother.  After graduating high school in Shaker Heights, Ng went on to study English at Harvard and earned her MFA in creative writing from the University of Michigan.  Ng now lives in Cambridge, MA with her husband and son.

Discussion Questions

  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?