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Everything I Never Told You by Ceeste Ng -Book Club Reading Guide

Everything I Never Told You

by Celeste Ng

PBR Book Review:

As the story opens, Lydia, the middle and favorite child of James and Marilyn Lee is missing and in short order found dead in a nearby lake. This leads the reader to believe this is a puzzle mystery. How and why did this teenage girl die? But in reality the book is so much more. It's about the consequences of dysfunctional family dynamics and the heaviness that hovers over those with failed dreams. The Lees feel inadequate because they are different; James is an American born Asian man married to Marilyn, the quintessential blued eye girl and in small town Ohio in the 70s ,they are noticed. Tangled emotions surface and play out as this family deals with the grief of losing Lydia and each member faces the consequences of the choices they have made. I really appreciate a good debut novel and this was such a book. I also love books that cross the cultural divide.


Book Club Talking Points:

This store takes on many controversial issues like race, being female, gender inequality, role modeling and bi-racial experiences. There are also all the problems of being different, not fitting in and living in a small town in the 70s. Both Marilyn and James have shattered dreams which affects their parenting skills and is silently passed on to their children. Lydia is also the favorite child and bears the brunt of the fulfilling these failed dreams.

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*Author Website: https://www.celesteng.com

Awards:This 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.

*Discussion Questions



Questions and Topics for Discussion

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 some- thing 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 satisifed?

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?

Book Summary
297 Pages - Penguin Books- May 12, 2015 -ISBN-10: 0143127551 -ISBN-13: 978-0143127550

Lydia is dead. But they don't know this yet . . .

So begins the story of this exquisite debut novel, about a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio. Lydia is the favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee; their middle daughter, a girl who inherited her mother's bright blue eyes and her father's jet-black hair. Her parents are determined that Lydia will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue-in Marilyn's case that her daughter become a doctor rather than a homemaker, in James's case that Lydia be 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, tumbling them into chaos. 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.

A profoundly moving story of family, history, and the meaning of home, Everything I Never Told You is both a gripping page-turner and a sensitive family portrait, exploring the divisions between cultures and the rifts within a family, and uncovering the ways in which mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, and husbands and wives struggle, all their lives, to understand one another.

 
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