If You Leave Me
Kim has previously been known for her short stories and won the PEN America Best Debut Short Story honor; her debut novel is set in Korea during the 1950s and ‘60s, where two childhood friends and ill-fated lovers are forced to make terrible choices against the backdrop of the Korean War. The story shifts between multiple points of view, exploring the terrible choice the young woman was forced to make between true love and a secure future, if she can live with herself after that decision, and what will happen next in this love triangle. Jessica Shattuck describes this as “a gripping, heartrending tale of the birth of modern Korea filtered through the prism of an intimate love story.”
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.