“An immersive, heartbreaking story about war, passion, and the road not taken.” — People
"One of the most beautiful and moving love stories you’ll read this year." — Nylon Magazine
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY The Washington Post • The New York Post • Vulture • Real Simple • Bustle • Nylon • Thrillist • Mental Floss • Self magazine • Booklist • Refinery 29
An emotionally riveting debut novel about war, family, and forbidden love—the unforgettable saga of two ill-fated lovers in Korea and the heartbreaking choices they’re forced to make in the years surrounding the civil war that still haunts us today.
When the communist-backed army from the north invades her home, sixteen-year-old Haemi Lee, along with her widowed mother and ailing brother, is forced to flee to a refugee camp along the coast. For a few hours each night, she escapes her family’s makeshift home and tragic circumstances with her childhood friend, Kyunghwan.
Focused on finishing school, Kyunghwan doesn’t realize his older and wealthier cousin, Jisoo, has his sights set on the beautiful and spirited Haemi—and is determined to marry her before joining the fight. But as Haemi becomes a wife, then a mother, her decision to forsake the boy she always loved for the security of her family sets off a dramatic saga that will have profound effects for generations to come.
Richly told and deeply moving, If You Leave Me is a stunning portrait of war and refugee life, a passionate and timeless romance, and a heartrending exploration of one woman’s longing for autonomy in a rapidly changing world.
A family struggles to balance tradition and change in Kim's marvelous debut. Sixteen years old and living in a refugee camp in 1951 Busan, South Korea, Lee Haemi is not interested in marrying but knows the plight of her situation might necessitate it. War has put everything on hold except starving, dying, and desperation. Her decision to find a husband borne partially out of hope for finding help for her ailing little brother, Hyunki ripples through the lives of those around her, especially the cousins who compete for her affections: quiet, studious Yun Kyunghwan and loyal, clever Yun Jisoo. Kyunghwan and Jisoo are both conscripted and go off to war, where the former is injured and the latter becomes inured to the staggering violence and cruelty he witnesses. After the fighting, Jisoo asks Haemi to marry him, and she agrees, feeling he is the best option to guarantee the safety of her family. After they move to a small town and start a family of their own, Kyunghwan tries to get into college and fails; instead, he lands several demeaning jobs before eventually working his way up the ladder through a series of factory jobs. In a crucible of political upheaval, modernization, and tumultuous love, Haemi is faced with choosing between safety and her own passions when Kyunghwan reenters her life. Kim's lyrical intergenerational saga resonates deeply and will appeal to readers who enjoyed The Orphan Master's Son.
If You Leave Me
A beautifully written book that lets you get to know each character. I wasn’t quite sure how it was going to end. You will end up pulling for each character to find their truth.
I simply adored this book. It is gorgeously written; the characters are rich & the culture is so tangible. This book will break your heart in the most beautiful way. Cannot wait to read it again some day, nor for more books by this oh so talented author.
One of the best books I’ve read all year.