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What We Kept to Ourselves

A Novel


About The Book

The New York Times bestselling author of the “timely, important” (PopSugar) The Last Story of Mina Lee returns with a propulsive and suspenseful new novel about a family’s search for answers when a stranger is found dead in their backyard, carrying a mysterious letter to their missing mother.

1999: The Kim family is struggling to move on after their mother, Sunny, vanished a year ago. Sixty-one-year-old John Kim feels more isolated from his grown children, Anastasia and Ronald, than ever before. But one evening, their fragile lives are further upended when John finds the body of a stranger in the backyard. The tragedy seems random until they learn that the dead man was carrying a letter to Sunny, sparking a desperate investigation into the stranger’s history and possible connections to her—only to reveal that someone has been watching them.

1977: Sunny is pregnant and has just moved to Los Angeles from Korea with her aloof and often-absent husband. America is not turning out the way she had dreamed it to be, and the loneliness and isolation are broken only by a fateful encounter at a bus stop. The unexpected connection spans the decades and echoes into the family’s lives in the present as they uncover devastating secrets that put not only everything they thought they knew about their mother but their very lives at risk.

Both a riveting page-turner and moving family story, What We Kept to Ourselves masterfully explores the consequences of secrets between parents and children, hus­bands and wives, the search for home when all seems lost, and what it means to dream in America.

About The Author

Photograph by Andria Lo

Nancy Jooyoun Kim is the New York Times bestselling author of What We Kept to Ourselves and The Last Story of Mina Lee, a Reese’s Book Club pick. Born and raised in Los Angeles, she now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Atria Books (October 10, 2023)
  • Length: 384 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781668004821

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Raves and Reviews

"Nancy Jooyoun Kim has crafted a moving, propulsive story about a family haunted by secrets. What We Kept To Ourselves spans the intimately personal to the urgently political to investigate how the traumas of the past shape the human experience. This is a probing, sharp novel about family, loss, desire, grief, the search for justice, and so much more."—Crystal Hana Kim, author of If You Leave Me

"A propulsive mystery about yearning, loneliness, and duty (but to and for whom?). Kim is a masterful wordsmith, tackling brittle topics with grace, urgency, and most importantly, hope. This book is a call to action, that it's never too late to live the life you've always wanted."Carolyn Huynh, author of The Fortunes of Jaded Women

What We Kept to Ourselves is a nail-biting thriller with hairpin turns, a generational saga, a love story, an unsparing look at belonging and unbelonging in America today—as well as the abject joys of food, family, forgiveness. I can’t stop thinking about the Kim family. A glorious achievement!” —Marie Myung-Ok Lee, author of The Evening Hero

“Nancy Jooyoun Kim’s What We Kept to Ourselves illuminates the glacial secrets among a family that crackle under a glass lens. Through the brushstrokes of tragedy and grief and mystery, Kim interrogates how a forgotten past bleeds into the choices we make in our everyday lives."—E. J. Koh, author of The Liberators

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