If You Leave Me

If You Leave Me

A Novel

Book - 2018
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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 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.
Publisher: New York, NY : William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, 2018.
Edition: First edition.
ISBN: 9780062645173
Characteristics: 417 pages ; 22 cm.


From Library Staff

Forced into the life of a refugee when the North Korean army invades her home, 16-year-old Haemi must choose between love and security in ways that resonate throughout generations of her family.

Added by Debby

"A gripping, heartrending tale of the birth of modern Korea filtered through the prism of an intimate love story."

From the critics

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Jul 03, 2020


Aug 15, 2019

This a great debut novel for Crystal Hana Kim. Not only does it take the reader into the Korean Conflict and life in Korea after the war, the three flawed main characters in a painful love story makes the story more poignant. They were “real” people, their actions and final outcomes reflected their personalities and the time in which they lived.

Jul 08, 2019

This is an utterly compelling and tragic story of a 'child' (16-year old Haemi) who continues to suffer from PTSD as a result of her experiences during and after the Korean War. Those who are disappointed in the spirit or ending of this story, are poorly informed about how people were forced to live. There were very few 'happy endings' for the women in either North or South Korea. As a result of the propaganda by the U.S. and other Allies, we have been given a shaded version of exactly what occurred in South Korea, and thanks to Trump, some of us (especially Americans) are led to believe that the leader in North Korea is just a good old boy.

Feb 10, 2019

While well written and with some beautiful imagery, I felt the book was totally unsatisfying from beginning to end. I kept waiting for an arc in the story, but it sort of just trailed on. I did find Haemi's struggle with depression/ her relationship with her children and husband to be complex, well written, and truthful, if not emotionally draining. I don't need my book to have a fairy tale ending, but it's tough to remain interested when there's no light at all to balance the dark.

Jan 19, 2019

Set in the end of Korean war through 1967. My affinities for the individual characters waxed and waned throughout. Told from several points of view at different periods of time. Would Haemi have had a different outcome if she'd married Kyungwhan instead of Jisoo? At times she seems clear eyed about their prospects. Relationships don't tie up neatly or happily. Yet, it was a great read, very emotionally satisfying and true.

Jan 02, 2019


cysmc Apr 27, 2018

Wow what a downer of a book. I gave it 1.5 stars for the beautiful and descriptive writing but that was not enough to save it in my opinion. I was unlucky enough to get a copy of this as an ARC and promptly tossed it into the trash at the airport when I was through. Depressing from start to finish.

However, if you love beautifully written books and don't mind the lack of happy ending after investing quite a bit of time in a bleak story, then give it a try!


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