This timely and surprising novel about a family’s search for answers following the disappearance of their mother from the New York Times bestselling author Nancy Jooyoun Kim explores “immigration, identity, love, and loss. A gorgeous, thrilling read” (Jean Kwok, New York Times bestselling author).

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 than ever before. But one evening, their fragile lives are further upended when John finds the body of a stranger in the backyard, carrying a letter to Sunny, leaving the family with more questions than ever.

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 “an intricately crafted mystery and a heart-wrenching family saga” (Michelle Min Sterling, New York Times bestselling author), What We Kept to Ourselves masterfully explores what it means to dream in America.

About the author(s)

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.


“What We Kept to Ourselves is both a suspenseful page-turner and a poignant family drama. Kim's beautiful, thoughtful prose illuminates themes of immigration, identity, love, and loss. A gorgeous, thrilling read!”—Jean Kwok, New York Times bestselling author of Girl In Translation

“Bursting with yearning, twists, and secrets, What We Kept to Ourselves is about the difficult questions that die in our throats when it comes to asking our loved ones. A triumph!”—Frances Cha, author of If I Had Your Face

“A gorgeous literary novel featuring poetic prose and a propulsive mystery. What We Kept to Ourselves is a moving story about immigration, family secrets, and human connection. Truly a masterpiece that I couldn’t put down.”—Emiko Jean, author of Mika in Real Life

"A powerful tribute to the bonds between the least privileged, each page of What We Kept to Ourselves pulses with stunning detail and deep insight. I couldn't put it down."—Margaret Wilkerson Sexton, bestselling author of On the Rooftop

“Kim's second novel is hard to put down, unique, haunting, and beautifully written, as the author slowly weaves layer upon layer in an intricate, mysterious web.”—Booklist, starred review

“Layers after layers of mystery are revealed with each chapter of this exquisitely written novel. What We Kept to Ourselves is a compelling, poetic, important, thought-provoking, and unforgettable read. Nancy Jooyoun Kim is a master storyteller who has the power to keep us spellbound and reminds us what we must do to make this world a better place.”—Nguyen Phan Que Mai, internationally bestselling author of The Mountains Sing and Dust Child

"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