If You Leave Me – Crystal Hana Kim
Title: If You Leave Me
Author: Crystal Hana Kim
Publisher: William Morrow
Genre: Historical Fiction/Literary Fiction/Cultural
Pages: 432 pages
I started reading this story slowly, a page at a time, until I fell under its spell. It is a slow moving tale that winds itself around a tragic love story set in Korea during and after the Korean War (1950s-1960s). If you ever read Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë, you might see a similarity between the two stories. It is a tale of broken dreams, whispered promises, caged aspirations and heart break. A story of tragedy and flawed individuals. But within this sadness there is a heart and a history that is worth immersing yourself in.
I absolutely loved this story. It was emotional, dark, forbidding and moved me to tears. The three main characters: Haemi, Jisoo and Kyunghwan, are not the most angelic people in the world. At times they are selfish and sometimes cruel, but they have redeeming moments. I found that I loved them all and equally was angered by them, but I never hated them. They were real and not just characters on a page. I felt they reflected my own selfish nature back at me.
However, even with all their selfishness, I forgave them for their moments of wickedness because in the end I empathized with them and their choices that led them to their individual destinations.
A truly passionate experience that I became trapped in and am still struggling to come out of.
You can find the story on Amazon in multiple formats.
Synopsis: 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.