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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 continues to haunt us today When the communist-backed army from the North invades her home, sixteen-year-old Haemi Lee, along with her widowed mother 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 continues to haunt 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.


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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 continues to haunt us today When the communist-backed army from the North invades her home, sixteen-year-old Haemi Lee, along with her widowed mother 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 continues to haunt 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.

30 review for If You Leave Me

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader

    5 bold stars to If You Leave Me! ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ If You Leave Me takes place in the 1950s during the Korean War. As children, Haemi and Kyunghwan were friends, but when the pair find themselves teens in a refugee camp along with their families and living under dire circumstances, a small spark is ignited as they spend a couple hours each night on the fringes of danger. Kyungwhan is entrenched in his schooling and has no idea his wealthy cousin, Jisoo, is making plans to marry Haemi. A life with Jisoo 5 bold stars to If You Leave Me! ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ If You Leave Me takes place in the 1950s during the Korean War. As children, Haemi and Kyunghwan were friends, but when the pair find themselves teens in a refugee camp along with their families and living under dire circumstances, a small spark is ignited as they spend a couple hours each night on the fringes of danger. Kyungwhan is entrenched in his schooling and has no idea his wealthy cousin, Jisoo, is making plans to marry Haemi. A life with Jisoo would offer financial security, comfort, and proximity to her mother and brother, and for those reasons, Haemi sacrifices her feelings for Kyunghwan in order to protect her family. The story follows as Haemi becomes a wife and mother, and there comes a time when she reflects on her choosing Jisoo, and the ripple effects of that one choice will impact much more than she ever could have foreseen. If You Leave Me is a richly drawn novel from multiple viewpoints. The narrators are Haemi and the men who love her, Kyunghwan and Jisoo, and later, we hear from Haemi’s brother, Hyunki, and Solee, Haemi’s daughter. The multiple narratives helped me to learn about each of the characters through the eyes of the others. Complex, well-developed characterization is the star of the show with a vividly depicted backdrop of not just Korea during the war, but over time with modernization and changes within these characters’ lives. I felt fully immersed in Korean culture. Overall, I found If You Leave me to be an engrossing, tragic, and heartbreaking tale of forbidden love and how one decision can have a lasting imprint for more than a lifetime. Thank you to William Morrow for the complimentary ARC. All opinions are my own. My reviews can also be found on my blog: www.jennifertarheelreader.com

  2. 5 out of 5

    Elyse

    “If You Leave Me”, by debut author, Crystal Hana Kim, takes place during the 1950’s and 1960’s in Korea. This is a wonderful, tragic tale.....the language, culture, and descriptions are lyrical and emotionally engrossing. We are taken on a journey —feeling the aches and pains. Haemi and Kyunghwan were childhood friends. Kyunghwan introduced his cousin, Jisoo, to Haemi, when the war made them go south. We know early on the reasons why Haemi is conflicted between desire and security. With the coun “If You Leave Me”, by debut author, Crystal Hana Kim, takes place during the 1950’s and 1960’s in Korea. This is a wonderful, tragic tale.....the language, culture, and descriptions are lyrical and emotionally engrossing. We are taken on a journey —feeling the aches and pains. Haemi and Kyunghwan were childhood friends. Kyunghwan introduced his cousin, Jisoo, to Haemi, when the war made them go south. We know early on the reasons why Haemi is conflicted between desire and security. With the country at war, her family poor - living with her mother- and younger brother who is sick - security- purity - and a good reputation ( values her mother instilled in her), are the only values that mattered. Haemi marries Jisoo. They have children. Kyunghwan is the children’s uncle. He also still loves Haemi. Life is closely examined- we get viewpoints - narration from: Haemi, - and the two men who love her: Kyunghwan, and Jisoo. — We also get viewpoints from Hyunki, ( Haemi’s brother), and her daughter Solee. The novel is divided into five parts....which works nicely - as Korea is changing - becoming more modern - which has some advantages but also some misfortunes. The characters feel like real people....and their lives are complicated. The prose is penetrating. Towards the end - I was in tears. BEAUTIFUL STORYTELLING! Tidbits I enjoyed: The Korean foods and drinks: Makgeolli is a sweet alcoholic beverage. Miyeokguk with cinnamon juice is made with seaweed - usually a soup. Pajeon is a Korean side dish similar to the Chinese scallion pancake. Tteokguk- or sliced rice cake soup is a traditional Korean dish eaten during celebration at the Korean New Year. Gonggi- pronounced gong - gee is a popular Korean children’s game involving small stones or pebbles. An excerpt: ....which gave me pause: “ I woke up early the next morning and lay still, collecting the floors coolness inside me before the day heated through with the summer sun. It was my job to make tea in the morning. Daddy drank ginseng and Mommy angelica. Jieun and Mila slept on with open mouths. I imagined dropping seeds down their throats. The kernels settling in their bellies, growing sprouts. Pear blossoms would flow from their lips and crawl up the walls of the room. Then I could puppet them around by their stalks and have THEM prepare the tea”. Thank you HarperCollins Publishers...and Will Byrnes Release date in stores: August 2018

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jessica Woodbury

    My early years of motherhood were very difficult. They made me wonder whether I was fit to have kids at all. And sometimes I would start to think about what my life would look like if I lived 50, 100, 200 years ago in a world where women had no choices about their families and childbearing. I could never think about it too much because the thought of what it would be like would overwhelm me. Even now it's a hard thought experiment because those years are still so fresh and raw in my mind. IF YOU My early years of motherhood were very difficult. They made me wonder whether I was fit to have kids at all. And sometimes I would start to think about what my life would look like if I lived 50, 100, 200 years ago in a world where women had no choices about their families and childbearing. I could never think about it too much because the thought of what it would be like would overwhelm me. Even now it's a hard thought experiment because those years are still so fresh and raw in my mind. IF YOU LEAVE ME is about a woman who has no real control over her choices when it comes to marriage and children, and I found it deeply affecting. Haemi and her family start the book uprooted from their home during the Korean war, doing what they can to find food. Haemi is only 16, her father is dead, and her younger brother is ill. It's a harrowing circumstance but she has her own escape sneaking out at night with Kyunghwan. During the day Kyunghwan's cousin Jisoo is courting Haemi. They both love her, and she wants desperately what each of them has to offer. Once Haemi makes her choice, we follow all of these characters through over a decade. Thankfully Haemi's narrative is not the only one. We get to see the world through several sets of eyes, what everyone else wants Haemi to be, and sometimes we get her own view of how trapped she feels by being a wife and mother with no other real choice. Haemi loves her children, loves her husband, and yet she feels empty and lost in a way she can never get anyone else to fully understand. Even in a drastically different time, Haemi makes the kinds of choices to take care of people around her that women still make today. If this book's depiction of a changing Korea appeals to you, I'd recommend following it with EVERYTHING BELONGS TO US, set around the time this book ends, which addresses centrally class and political issues that are more periphery to this book while still having the same kind of deep empathy for its characters this novel has.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    In Crystal Hana Kim's debut novel: If You Leave Me, multiple narrators allow us to bear witness to female lead character: Haemi Lee as a practical life choice at the young age of sixteen impacts her and those around her for years to come. It's not news that women fulfill a wide variety of roles in our one short lifetime. Some are by choice, some are not...and this is the main theme threaded throughout this novel: choice. Set in the 1950's and 1960's in war-torn Korea, Haemi's ability to choose i In Crystal Hana Kim's debut novel: If You Leave Me, multiple narrators allow us to bear witness to female lead character: Haemi Lee as a practical life choice at the young age of sixteen impacts her and those around her for years to come. It's not news that women fulfill a wide variety of roles in our one short lifetime. Some are by choice, some are not...and this is the main theme threaded throughout this novel: choice. Set in the 1950's and 1960's in war-torn Korea, Haemi's ability to choose is hindered due to a wide variety of factors, gender roles being on top. Crystal Hana Kim shows how deeply scarring this can be. It seems that war isn't the only thing that leaves lingering trauma. Imagine that. My favorite (but also the saddest) element of this novel involved Haemi in her role of motherhood. It's not always rainbows and butterflies. In Haemi's case, it can feel like imprisonment. Having gone through postpartum depression myself, this condition feels isolating enough as it is. I couldn't fathom living in a time and place where it doesn't even have a name. But of course women of that time were expected to be grateful, submissive, adoring, and to be anything less was deeply problematic. Haemi is none of these. She is a character full of regret, independence, and longing, and the trickle effect onto the other characters is palpable right to the end. Diverse, personal, and skillfully layered, If You Leave Me is a beautifully written saga that I'm glad I read. My favorite quote: "We can stitch ourselves back together, Mother said. I believed her."

  5. 4 out of 5

    Monica Kim

    If you leave me, I’ll be alone. — Crystal Hana Kim, If You Leave Me . . oh my god, my heart is aching so bad! Crystal Hana Kim’s “If You Leave Me” was one helluva emotionally heavy read. The ending totally shattered my heart, oh my! This is an impressive, epic, unforgettable debut novel about love, family, war, gender roles, and heartbreaking choices people make that haunts them for a lifetime set in Korea 1950’s and 1960’s during & aftermath of the devastating Korean cvil war. . I can’t remembe If you leave me, I’ll be alone. — Crystal Hana Kim, If You Leave Me . . oh my god, my heart is aching so bad! Crystal Hana Kim’s “If You Leave Me” was one helluva emotionally heavy read. The ending totally shattered my heart, oh my! This is an impressive, epic, unforgettable debut novel about love, family, war, gender roles, and heartbreaking choices people make that haunts them for a lifetime set in Korea 1950’s and 1960’s during & aftermath of the devastating Korean cvil war. . I can’t remember the last time I read a novel by a Korean-American author. I thought the author has done a phenomenal job of capturing the ambience, language, and culture of the Korean background, but it could leave some non-Korean readers confused at times. Because the nature of the setting, she’s incorporated few Korean words that were old, and perhaps out-of-style. Although it’s a technique other authors use in novels set in a different country, even for a Korean person, who speaks, reads, and writes the language, I had to double, triple re-read the sentences to fully understand. I’m afraid some sentences will get lost to many readers, but don’t let that deter you from reading this novel, she has carefully chosen words that aren’t necessary important to the story as whole. . This is an ambitious novel in scope, depth, and setting. Told in alternating narratives, story follows Haemi and her family, refugees during the Korean war. Haemi is a free-spirited, smart girl who spends evening with her childhood friend Kwanghwan, both clearly have deep feelings for each other. While kwanghwan is focused on finishing school, his cousin jisoo is determined to fight in the war and marry Haemi before he sets off. Haemi marries jisoo for the family and becomes a wife & mother, but struggles with the decision and it continues to haunt her for many years. And unmarried kwanghwan also continues to struggles with that fact and is unable to forget Haemi. Through the years, kwanghwan tries to allure Haemi to run off together, but Haemi is bound by familial obligations & her effort to keep the family together, and tries to be a good mother & wife. Despite Haemi’s best efforts, she’s continually haunted by demons, and ultimately does the unthinkable at the end. . gripping, absorbing, immersive debut novel about love, family, and gender roles, set against the backdrop & aftermath of the devastating Korean civil war. **WARNING/TRIGGER: This maybe a spoiler, a minor one, but I needed to say something as a Korean-American & about the culture of Korea. It’s not clearly stated, but Haemi struggled with post-partum anxiety, depression, and/or mental illness. For those who may not be aware, mental illness is a relatively new concept in Korea (Eastern Asia, what I’m familiar with), it’s not something you discuss or admit, it’s unforgivingly stigmatized & closed out from the society. Culture have slowly started talking about it recently because of recent highly publicized suicides of superstars in the entertainment industry. I thought I needed to mention because the author has carefully incorporated it into book; especially for a book set in the 50’s/60’s, I thought it was a very smart move. Smart to incorporate an important topic into a book set in Korea that does not discuss mental health, society where pride is highly prized. People literally kill to climb ladders or work to death. . I am so grateful to be living in America. I know we still have a long way to go for our society to be more accepting and for many people it ends in tragedy, but there’s hope & help in America. I had my share of struggles, and I was able to overcome, not always easy, but grateful to be surrounded by loving family & friends. I went bit of a tangent here per usual 🤣, but remember there’s light at the end of tunnel, there truly is. Highly recommend this debut novel by a promising author with a bright future!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Lillian Li

    I’m always so fascinated by books where every bad choice also feels like a necessary one. Crystal Hana Kim’s If You Leave Me is such a novel. There are no villains (except, perhaps, history itself; the rigid conventions of the time), only victims, who are strong, but not unbreakable; loving, but not saints, or martyrs. Haemi is the kind of headstrong, whip smart woman you ache to see born in the wrong era. Her decision (if it can even be called that) to protect her family by marrying a man she d I’m always so fascinated by books where every bad choice also feels like a necessary one. Crystal Hana Kim’s If You Leave Me is such a novel. There are no villains (except, perhaps, history itself; the rigid conventions of the time), only victims, who are strong, but not unbreakable; loving, but not saints, or martyrs. Haemi is the kind of headstrong, whip smart woman you ache to see born in the wrong era. Her decision (if it can even be called that) to protect her family by marrying a man she doesn’t love sows seeds of tragedy that feel perversely familiar as they bloom down the line. What is timeless, though, in Kim’s novel is the question of why love is something we both can and cannot live without. If only it were as necessary as air, or as ornamental as diamonds. If only it were as strong a savior as it is a destroyer.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Janelle

    Thank you so much to William Morrow for providing my free copy of IF YOU LEAVE ME by Crystal Hana Kim - all opinions are my own. This is a poignant, insightful debut novel set during the time of the Korean War involving a complicated love triangle. We follow sixteen-year-old Haemi Lee who is staying at a refugee camp as she and her family have been forced out of their village due to the calamity of war. Haemi has been sneaking out to spend time with her childhood friend, Kyunghwan, but a spark ig Thank you so much to William Morrow for providing my free copy of IF YOU LEAVE ME by Crystal Hana Kim - all opinions are my own. This is a poignant, insightful debut novel set during the time of the Korean War involving a complicated love triangle. We follow sixteen-year-old Haemi Lee who is staying at a refugee camp as she and her family have been forced out of their village due to the calamity of war. Haemi has been sneaking out to spend time with her childhood friend, Kyunghwan, but a spark ignites and it becomes more than friendship. The only issue is simultaneously she’s being pursued by his more affluent cousin, Jisoo. Jisoo wants her hand in marriage; he offers financial security and the chance for her to stay close with her family. She ignores her feelings for Kyunghwan and reluctantly makes a decision to marry for stability rather than desire. The story spans over sixteen years during a time of great change for the Korean people and Haemi reflects on her decision to marry Jisoo. There are so many things that I love about this gorgeous novel: the backdrop of Korea, the strong character development, the multiple perspectives, and how the author lightly touches on mental illness. The story is told from the perspectives of Haemi, Jisoo, Kyunghwan, Haemi’s brother Hyunki, and her daughter Solee - I love how as readers we get the full picture of the story from these five narratives. These characters feel very honest and authentic, and by the end I was in tears. Kim is a master storyteller with lovely prose and the ability to draw you in on every page. IF YOU LEAVE ME is a story about the decisions we make and how they affect our lives and the people around us. Also, I always love stories where the setting plays a character and this one was painted with vivid imagery as Korea changed over the years. I visualized every moment and felt everything Haemi felt. LOVE. THIS. BOOK.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Audrey

    Overall, this was a disappointment. It's going to get a lot of comparisons to Pachinko but I think it's unfair to both books. While both books are set in Korea, Pachinko is a broader family epic that encompasses more events and time. One got a greater sense of the hardships and joys of the time period and of the family itself. This book, doesn't get there. And, part of it is my tastes: I'm not into the love triangle trope and this book revolves around that. But, the love triangle isn't the only i Overall, this was a disappointment. It's going to get a lot of comparisons to Pachinko but I think it's unfair to both books. While both books are set in Korea, Pachinko is a broader family epic that encompasses more events and time. One got a greater sense of the hardships and joys of the time period and of the family itself. This book, doesn't get there. And, part of it is my tastes: I'm not into the love triangle trope and this book revolves around that. But, the love triangle isn't the only issue for me. I never got the sense as to WHY these characters loved (obsessed) about the object of their affection. Most of it seemed to be based on physical looks and gestures versus the actual person. There was also no real sense of place of events. Nothing to really draw me into the setting itself. Some of the city scenes in Seoul, other then the food, could have been in any city. There were some lovely bits of writing but not enough to overcome the plot. But, if you enjoy love triangles, you will love this book.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Bates

    I was totally engrossed in the story of Haemi, Kyunghwan, and their families in war torn Korea. I cried so many times with Haemi. This is one of the first (if not THE first) novel I’ve read that touches on postpartum depression, though it doesn’t call it by that name. Haemi talks about being in a haze a year after each child was born. About how she longed for more, how she felt misery creep in and poison her thoughts. It was such a full, aching story.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jerrie (redwritinghood)

    This wins for beautiful cover, but the story was disappointing. This is a pretty standard love story/love triangle. I was interested in the post-WWII Korean setting, but nothing much was made of that in the book. To me, that was a missed opportunity.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Lucy Tan

    I was completely absorbed by the forbidden love story of Haemi and Kyunghwan, their complicated ties to Kyunghwan’s cousin, Jisoo, and this rich portrait of war-torn Korea. IF YOU LEAVE ME is a novel of epic proportions whose tone shifts agilely over time, following the lives of its characters and the devastating consequences of war. It’s full of longing and hard truths, and now that I've finished it I'm in solid agreement with the buzz surrounding this book, naming Crystal Hana Kim as a talente I was completely absorbed by the forbidden love story of Haemi and Kyunghwan, their complicated ties to Kyunghwan’s cousin, Jisoo, and this rich portrait of war-torn Korea. IF YOU LEAVE ME is a novel of epic proportions whose tone shifts agilely over time, following the lives of its characters and the devastating consequences of war. It’s full of longing and hard truths, and now that I've finished it I'm in solid agreement with the buzz surrounding this book, naming Crystal Hana Kim as a talented writer to watch.

  12. 4 out of 5

    J

    Literary novels normally turn me off, if I’m being honest. But this one shies from the romantic flowery language and gets to the heart of the characters, and let me tell you, it is HEARTBREAKING. But so so so sooooo goooood. I couldn’t recommend it higher, it is breathtaking.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Afoma Umesi

    Thanks to William Morrow Books for an ARC of this book. The debut novel is a harrowing account of the ravages of the Korean Civil War. Also in focus is the star-crossed love of Haemi Lee and her childhood friend, Kyunghwan. When the Korean civil war forces Haemi, her widowed mother and sickly brother to flee to a refugee camp, she finds solace in her nightly outings with Kyunghwan. There’s not too much to be said without giving the entire story away, but If You Leave Me is unforgettable. Truly, th Thanks to William Morrow Books for an ARC of this book. The debut novel is a harrowing account of the ravages of the Korean Civil War. Also in focus is the star-crossed love of Haemi Lee and her childhood friend, Kyunghwan. When the Korean civil war forces Haemi, her widowed mother and sickly brother to flee to a refugee camp, she finds solace in her nightly outings with Kyunghwan. There’s not too much to be said without giving the entire story away, but If You Leave Me is unforgettable. Truly, this book is an eye opening, engulfing and heartbreaking exploration of what love means, what war does and what womanhood can feel like. There were times when I wished the book could be shorter, but prepare yourself for an immersive experience of the Korean Civil War. Prepare yourself to feel a bit raw at the end of this story, even as you welcome its meaningfulness. full review at http://www.afomaumesi.com/2018/08/07/...

  14. 4 out of 5

    Ming

    This is a technically well-written book. And the story is innovative given the time period it covers. However, I could not shake the impression that it's about three people who continually behave badly. The triangle persists despite the initial set of poor judgment and awful decisions. (Really? It went that well the first time that you'd repeat it?) My take on these characters, moreso, reflects a certain distance as well as pronounced disdain. I didn't feel like I could relate to them or want to. ( This is a technically well-written book. And the story is innovative given the time period it covers. However, I could not shake the impression that it's about three people who continually behave badly. The triangle persists despite the initial set of poor judgment and awful decisions. (Really? It went that well the first time that you'd repeat it?) My take on these characters, moreso, reflects a certain distance as well as pronounced disdain. I didn't feel like I could relate to them or want to. (I read an ARC, which was a gift from an angel, months ago. I had delayed reading this a few times.)

  15. 4 out of 5

    Ingrid Contreras

    “Everyone in our village whispered what they wanted to believe: the war would end and we would return to our real homes soon.” This gorgeous novel opens in a refugee camp in Korea where sixteen-year old Haemí escapes the unfolding anguish of her family’s straw-roofed shelter, and sneaks to meet her childhood friend Kyunghwan. Late at night, they ride bicycles to nearby towns and scout out bars. They pretend to have different lives, to be older, to be lovers — all lies which they use to scam thei “Everyone in our village whispered what they wanted to believe: the war would end and we would return to our real homes soon.” This gorgeous novel opens in a refugee camp in Korea where sixteen-year old Haemí escapes the unfolding anguish of her family’s straw-roofed shelter, and sneaks to meet her childhood friend Kyunghwan. Late at night, they ride bicycles to nearby towns and scout out bars. They pretend to have different lives, to be older, to be lovers — all lies which they use to scam their way into the bars so they can be merry, even if fleetingly. For her and for Kyunghwan life will go on, but they are resolutely stuck on each other. This is a story of love found, love absconded, and the consequence of not following one’s heart.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Nicole Swinson

    This is Crystal Hana Kim’s debut novel and she in no way disappointed me. This story is brilliantly written, each chapter guides you through the lives of the three main characters- Haemi, Kyunghwan and Jisoo. The story line is set in the time of the Korean War when they all had to flee to safety in a refugee camp. Haemi and Kyunghwan were childhood friends and their friendship continues to grow as they sneak out and spend time with each other past curfew. Haemi does not hide her affection for Ky This is Crystal Hana Kim’s debut novel and she in no way disappointed me. This story is brilliantly written, each chapter guides you through the lives of the three main characters- Haemi, Kyunghwan and Jisoo. The story line is set in the time of the Korean War when they all had to flee to safety in a refugee camp. Haemi and Kyunghwan were childhood friends and their friendship continues to grow as they sneak out and spend time with each other past curfew. Haemi does not hide her affection for Kyunghwan but he does not give in to her, his focus is on school. Kyunghwan’s cousin Jisoo takes notice of Haemi and before he goes off to war he wants to be married and have a family to come home to, Haemi decides to marry Jisoo for a better life for her family and their lives are never the same after that. The story guides us through their lives throughout the years after the war, we follow Haemi and Jisoo and their growing family; Kyunghwan and his inability to settle down and Haemi’s never-ending love and desire to be with her true love Kyunghwan. This story was beautifully written, having just read Pachinko this felt like it could tie in with that story line. I enjoyed how each chapter was about each character, there was no crazy flashbacks or flash forwards that distracted me. I highly recommend add this book to your reading list, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did..

  17. 5 out of 5

    Nobonita - The Bengali Nomad

    My blog: The Bengali Nomad I received an advanced copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This book is BEAUTIFUL. It is the EMOTIONAL-roller-coaster-ride & relatable tearjerker kind of beautiful. But my lips are sealed. Full review to come closer to its publication date.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Kelsea

    4.5🌟

  19. 4 out of 5

    Lexie

    4.2 stars a beautiful novel. Heartbreaking. Full review to come soon

  20. 4 out of 5

    Erin

    There was a lot to like about this novel - Kim does a great job creating well-rounded characters with emotional depth and the span of time she covers allows her to fully explore life's twists and turns with her characters. However, I felt like some of the most dramatic action happened off the page with minor characters reporting on it. This element made me feel disconnected from the plot and left me not caring too much about what happened to anyone. There aren't really many redeeming qualities i There was a lot to like about this novel - Kim does a great job creating well-rounded characters with emotional depth and the span of time she covers allows her to fully explore life's twists and turns with her characters. However, I felt like some of the most dramatic action happened off the page with minor characters reporting on it. This element made me feel disconnected from the plot and left me not caring too much about what happened to anyone. There aren't really many redeeming qualities in the characters, which usually doesn't bother me, but in this novel, it just ended up feeling a little more tedious. Also, I think I would have appreciated the story more with just one or two POVs instead of many. Kim is clearly talented, but this isn't one that will stick with me for long.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Amanda Hagerty

    I won arc copy of this book in a Goodreads giveaway. In return for honest review. I loved this book so much. This book is set between 1951 and 1967. This book is in five parts. Which made reading easy to read. In the first part we meet three young kids named Haemi and Jisoo and Kyunghwan trapped in the middle of Korea war. Haemi lives with her mother and her little brother. Haemi and Kyunghwan are childhood friends who run off and meet up with each other. Jisoo and Kyunghwan are cousins. Jisoo s I won arc copy of this book in a Goodreads giveaway. In return for honest review. I loved this book so much. This book is set between 1951 and 1967. This book is in five parts. Which made reading easy to read. In the first part we meet three young kids named Haemi and Jisoo and Kyunghwan trapped in the middle of Korea war. Haemi lives with her mother and her little brother. Haemi and Kyunghwan are childhood friends who run off and meet up with each other. Jisoo and Kyunghwan are cousins. Jisoo stays with Kyunghwan and his father because of the war him and his family have separated. Jisoo has decided he wants to enlist into the war but before he does that he wants to marry Haemi. Later in the parts we read from the point of views of Haemi brother Hyunki and Haemi oldest daughter Solee We are taken into these young people lives and how the war has effected their lives. Haemi is a character I will never forget. I felt her pain and her sadness and her heartache. Amazing book I highly recommended this book. I learned a lot and felt for these characters too. This book comes out August 8,2018 Thank you again goodreads for this giveaway.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Barbara White

    If You Leave Me is an interesting story seen through the eyes of each main character. I really learning about each character through the others. I was a little confused at the beginning, but once I realized how the book was written, it all fell into place. I felt I knew the characters, their pain and their joys. I could picture the surroundings as refugees in war torn Korea, and the same for others more successful. I highly recommend reading If You Leave Me. It's a real page-turner. Thanks to Go If You Leave Me is an interesting story seen through the eyes of each main character. I really learning about each character through the others. I was a little confused at the beginning, but once I realized how the book was written, it all fell into place. I felt I knew the characters, their pain and their joys. I could picture the surroundings as refugees in war torn Korea, and the same for others more successful. I highly recommend reading If You Leave Me. It's a real page-turner. Thanks to Goodreads First Reads for a copy of this book. I look forward to more books from Crystal Hana Kim.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Nancy

    It took me a while to get into If You Leave Me, and for the first third or so, I was confused about what exactly Crystal Hana Kim was trying to do: was this supposed to be a love story? A war story? It didn't feel like either, and it wasn't until about halfway through that I realized this book for what it was: a story about people hardened by war and poverty, and specifically, a story about women in a world that doesn't want to value their existence. My heart has been breaking since Haemi agreed It took me a while to get into If You Leave Me, and for the first third or so, I was confused about what exactly Crystal Hana Kim was trying to do: was this supposed to be a love story? A war story? It didn't feel like either, and it wasn't until about halfway through that I realized this book for what it was: a story about people hardened by war and poverty, and specifically, a story about women in a world that doesn't want to value their existence. My heart has been breaking since Haemi agreed to marry Jisoo. I'm reminded forcibly of every historical fiction book and TV show I've ever watched featuring women who sacrificed their personal happiness for the sake of their families and futures, and who ended up condemned by everyone around them for the simple crime of being unhappy. Haemi isn't necessarily a likeable character, and neither are any of the other characters in this book. What matters is that they're all complicated and realistic, and all make sense within the context of who they are. Every thread of this story is heartbreaking, and every you're never allowed to forget the tragedy that brought each of these characters to the places where they exist. The war and political context act as a background character in this book, which I really appreciated, because the grimness of the setting never felt overpowering. It was dark enough to give a desolate mood, but also pulled back enough that we were able to look at the characters as people and not just products of their environment. Overall, a really beautiful book about women and war and the complicated intersection of both.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Marzie

    Crystal Hana Kim's If You Leave Me is an elegiac novel of historical fiction centering on the period of the Korean Civil War and its aftermath. Told from the perspective of multiple characters, we see life in Korea during this challenging period of time. Haemi is a sixteen-year-old young woman struggling to care for her sickly younger brother Hyunki while living in a refugee camp. She and her longtime best friend Kyunghwan steal time together. Kyunghwan loves Haemi but feels he has little he is Crystal Hana Kim's If You Leave Me is an elegiac novel of historical fiction centering on the period of the Korean Civil War and its aftermath. Told from the perspective of multiple characters, we see life in Korea during this challenging period of time. Haemi is a sixteen-year-old young woman struggling to care for her sickly younger brother Hyunki while living in a refugee camp. She and her longtime best friend Kyunghwan steal time together. Kyunghwan loves Haemi but feels he has little he is able to offer her to better her circumstances. His cousin Jisoo is determined to marry Haemi, in spite of their precarious circumstances. He quickly learns the key to Haemi's hand in marriage lies in trying to provide better care for Hyunki. Kyunghwan and Haemi, whose affection for one another is palpable are star-crossed. Jisoo offers her security and Kyunghwan offers her love and friendship. Feeling she has few viable choices and trying to safeguard her younger brother and family, as women have during times of war since time immemorial, Haemi marries Jisoo. She finds both the marriage and motherhood to be very hard, though she loves her children and feels something akin to love for Jisoo. When Kyunghwan reenters her life, further emotional struggles ensue, especially as Jisoo becomes increasingly abusive. Haemi's daughter's views of their mother and father are given voice with her daughter Solee's narrative. This is a poignant novel, capturing a period of time that has been fundamental in modern Korean history. It exemplifies living in times when the only choices are bad choices and how living with the bad choice you had to make can, over time, become all but unbearable. It also portrays the struggles of motherhood and depression in ways we don't often see talked about, especially in the context of a culture that prizes reserve and pride. (Some of Elena Ferrante's novels spring to mind.) As in the real world of a sharply divided country, tearing apart a country means that everyone loses something. If You Leave Me shows us just how much can be lost. I received a Digital Review Copy from Edelweiss and William Morrow, along with a paper ARC copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Mainlinebooker

    My head is reeling from this emotionally devastating novel set in 1950-60's Korea. It begins with the childhood friendships of 16 yr old Haemi Lee and Kyunghwan. Late at night they escape the effects of war on his bicycle chugging liquor and smoking cigarettes feeling free as birds for a small portion of their lives. Enter Kyunghwan's older cousin Jisoo, who wants to make her his bride so that he has someone to come home to after he enlists in the war. Because he is wealthy and could help provid My head is reeling from this emotionally devastating novel set in 1950-60's Korea. It begins with the childhood friendships of 16 yr old Haemi Lee and Kyunghwan. Late at night they escape the effects of war on his bicycle chugging liquor and smoking cigarettes feeling free as birds for a small portion of their lives. Enter Kyunghwan's older cousin Jisoo, who wants to make her his bride so that he has someone to come home to after he enlists in the war. Because he is wealthy and could help provide stability and income for the family , Haemi consents although never really acknowledging her true feelings. Life continues in this saga with Haemi grappling with resentment and unhappiness caused by her decision. She bears 4 children whom she loves and hates feeling trapped in a situation of her own making. This unhappiness spills over to the lives of her four children .There is such a raw visceral power to this novel that must be read and felt to be understood.Her tale is ultimately a universal one.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Creager

    Haemi is a displaced teenager of the Korean War and has endured more than her Western counterparts; Japanese occupation, World War II and now this war against the Communist North. She finds freedom dressed in her father’s pants and with her childhood friend, Kyungham, there begins an awareness, a risk of more between them in this new world where the old customs don’t apply. But culture has the upper hand when Jisoo, Kyungham’s elder, sees in Haemi a grace that belies her position and seeks her f Haemi is a displaced teenager of the Korean War and has endured more than her Western counterparts; Japanese occupation, World War II and now this war against the Communist North. She finds freedom dressed in her father’s pants and with her childhood friend, Kyungham, there begins an awareness, a risk of more between them in this new world where the old customs don’t apply. But culture has the upper hand when Jisoo, Kyungham’s elder, sees in Haemi a grace that belies her position and seeks her for himself. Haemi, Kyungham, and Jisoo traverse war, disabilities, and the slums of Seoul with the understanding that a person can endure anything even when made aware of their place in the world. (view spoiler)[ And then there’s the last 50 pages when I can’t decide if Haemi is a good person or so very bitter. The bitterest people begin so sweet and giving, and when put upon become the worst, so unforgiving to shove all their choices in your face as your fault because they were made for you "allegedly." The miserable ending, I mean to the very end, miserable without even a glimmer. I'll end up deleting this, I'm just bitter too (hide spoiler)]

  27. 5 out of 5

    Carol

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Why is it that we are our own worst enemies sometimes? When love is found why is it that we can't dive into it and thrive without thinking of what other people will think or whether it's the "best choice" for the future? This is an absorbing book with wonderful character portrayals and life amidst war. Ultimately it's also an intriguing book of serious dysfunctionality in a family. Enjoyable but depressing.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Angie

    I am so happy to have won an ARC of If You Leave Me via Goodreads! This is one of my most anticipated books of 2018, and I am happy to say that I wholeheartedly recommend it. If You Leave Me is a beautifully-written, emotional story about the choices we make, and how we carry them with us for the rest of our lives. Set in Korea during the Korean War and its aftermath, If You Leave Me conveys the feelings and realities of refugee life. It also most heartbreakingly explores Haemi's inner struggle w I am so happy to have won an ARC of If You Leave Me via Goodreads! This is one of my most anticipated books of 2018, and I am happy to say that I wholeheartedly recommend it. If You Leave Me is a beautifully-written, emotional story about the choices we make, and how we carry them with us for the rest of our lives. Set in Korea during the Korean War and its aftermath, If You Leave Me conveys the feelings and realities of refugee life. It also most heartbreakingly explores Haemi's inner struggle with the life she wants and the life she has. If You Leave Me alternates between the perspectives of different characters, and each one added a unique viewpoint, highlighting the repercussions of actions, sometimes unintended and sometimes misunderstood. Even when someone is close to you, every day, how much do you really know about them?

  29. 5 out of 5

    Abby Johnson

    SO GOOD. Coming in August. In this sweeping novel set in Korea in the 1950s and 60s, war refugee Lee Haemi must choose between the boy she loves and the boy who can provide for her family. Just as the country's being torn apart, Haemi is torn. She yearns to follow her heart with the boy she loves, but her heart cares just as much about her ailing little brother who desperately needs food and medicine. Haemi's decision will impact the future of her entire family... and that's just the beginning. SO GOOD. Coming in August. In this sweeping novel set in Korea in the 1950s and 60s, war refugee Lee Haemi must choose between the boy she loves and the boy who can provide for her family. Just as the country's being torn apart, Haemi is torn. She yearns to follow her heart with the boy she loves, but her heart cares just as much about her ailing little brother who desperately needs food and medicine. Haemi's decision will impact the future of her entire family... and that's just the beginning. This multigenerational historical novel is perfect for fans of PACHINKO (I liked it even better, tbh) or Kristin Hannah.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    I don't often engage in historical fiction, but If You Leave Me swept me away in its pages. My heart ached for Haemi, held captive by forbidden love, expectations as a wife and mother, and a life she never asked for with a man she never wanted. The multiple points of view gives a complete look into the wide range of tension and emotion surrounding the characters' histories with each other. This is a stunning, bittersweet, raw novel that will stay with me for quite some time.

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