If You Leave Me
I read the Kindle version.
If You Leave Me is based in Korea and is a mentally-captivating first novel from author Crystal Hana Kim. The story is set during the 1950s Korean War through the Vietnam War era and encompases a variety of topics; family, mental health, and ill-fated romances. It is filled with wretched choices and yearning for what one cannot have.
What I Did Like
I must mention the cover of this one – it’s beautiful.
The narrative was engaging and well crafted so I didn’t find myself mentally straying during this read. I loved the almost poetic descriptions throughout the story of the landscapes and surroundings. Knowing little of anything about Korea, I very much enjoyed the bits of information I gleaned from this book. The food descriptions in particular were specifically repelling, They eat a lot of fish, and I’m not a fish person. Being a poor refugee, one does not turn away any food.
What I Didn’t Like
As much as I enjoyed the writing, I didn’t feel like this story moved along very fast. And it skipped parts I would have like to know more about. Haemi’s wedding. Hyunki’s trip to Seoul. Jisoo’s rise after the war. Often wondering why Haemi was responding the way she was. It just seemed like were were getting a bunch of different viewpoints when maybe it would have been better to narrow those down and go with two or three and develop the viewpoint better.
Overall story just didn’t have a very strong plot. After reflecting a bit, I think it was about the effects this war has one its people. Maybe not. There really was a lot going on in this novel.
I do feel as if Haemi held such promise at the beginning of the book. She was strong willed and had a mind of her own, but she caved to culture and the world around her again and again, ending up so very depressed. She was such a pushover and afraid to do what she wanted. Seems to be a message of self compromise here. She was given ample opportunity (and perfect excuses) to follow her heart and she refused.
Should You Read It?
Yes. If You Leave Me is beautifully written and if you don’t know about Korea it’ll feel like you’re taking a trip there.
Crystal Hana Kim is a Teach For America alum and has taught elementary school, high school, and collegiate writing. She currently teaches at Columbia University and is a contributing editor at Apogee Journal.
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Have you read this book? If so, what did you think? Let me know if the comments below.