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If You Leave Me

3.68  ·  Rating details ·  3,360 ratings  ·  565 reviews
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
Hardcover, 417 pages
Published August 7th 2018 by William Morrow
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Marianne That is absolutely why I read this book. I have 2 very small children, so I often just grab a book in passing when in the library and hope that it's a…moreThat is absolutely why I read this book. I have 2 very small children, so I often just grab a book in passing when in the library and hope that it's a good one. Luckily, I was truly engrossed in this story and really connected with the mother/daughter relationships. (less)

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Average rating 3.68  · 
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 ·  3,360 ratings  ·  565 reviews

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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 J
Elyse  Walters
Jan 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
“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
Nov 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
War, family, and love.. Crystal Hana Kim weaves these themes together effortlessly.

If I had to pick one word to describe the meat of this book, I'd pick powerful. It packs a huge punch. This book spoke to me. I heard messages of hope. I heard messages of fear. I also heard messages of desperation. War will do that to a person.

In war-torn Korea, Haemi at sixteen, is experiencing love for the very first time. Although the environment surrounding them is bleak, when Haemi and Kyungwan are together
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 ...more
Jennifer Blankfein
Apr 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
This wonderful debut novel, If You Leave Me, centers around five characters growing up during and after the Korean war. Haemi is a spirited, willful and independent 16 year old refugee who lives with and feels responsible for her widowed mother and her sickly younger brother, Hyunki. She and her lifelong friend, Kyungwan, are experiencing young love, but he wants to get an education and be a better man before he expresses his feelings. Kyungwan’s older, wealthier cousin, Jisoo, has no immediate ...more
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 ...more
Monica Kim: Reader in Emerald City
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 th
Sep 18, 2019 rated it liked it
[3.4] If You Leave Me is strongest in its portrayal of the effects of the Korean War on three friends forced out of their homes and living in the same village. Haemi is the most fleshed out of the three characters - I wish Kim had kept the focus on her. The longer the novel went on (and it is too long) the more disjointed it felt.
Aug 03, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: first-reads
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
Lillian Li
Apr 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Jan 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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.
Kate Olson
Fascinating and riveting historical fiction.
Afoma (Reading Middle Grade)
Jul 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Thanks to William Morrow Books for an ARC of this book.

This 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,
Oct 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Chrystal Hana Kims debut novel "If You Love Me" has blown me away!!

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

Settled in Korea and embracing the occupation by the japs during WWII, the birth of communist South Korea and the students bloody protest demos in Seoul against a corrupt government..

Te writing is so powerful that the main characters Haemi, Kyungwan and Jisoo are haunting me and they will hold
Janelle Janson
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
Jul 24, 2018 rated it it was ok
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.

Traci at The Stacks
Nov 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
A post war story. Super specific. The author clearly knew her characters. Not overworked or overwritten. Emotional. No one was completely right, everyone was complex. Good good book.
Mar 16, 2019 rated it liked it
I can't quite say that I enjoyed this read. It was well written, but I found the subject matter and characters painful. I picked this one up as a challenge that satisfied three criteria, as a debut novel set in South Korea, that has been languishing on my TBR.

Set in the throes and aftermath of the Korean War, three or four young people are struggling for survival. Happiness is not an option, Love is not something one can have. But somehow, there is a certain something between Haemi and Kwangshwo
Aug 05, 2018 rated it liked it
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 ...more
Jessica Bates
Jun 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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.
Lucy Tan
May 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Apr 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
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.
Honestly, I don't like Haemi anymore. All the men in this book are just evoking all the bah, ugh, what-is-wrong-with-you emotions in me. (view spoiler). Overall, I don't think I "get" this book so I'm kind of really disappointed.

Though I think Haemi has some mental health issue. Otherwise she's just plain mean and manipulative. But from what she's said and what happened, I think she had some sort of persona
Ingrid Contreras
Oct 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
“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 ...more
Nicole reading_with_nicole
Aug 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
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
Nobonita - The Bengali Nomad
Feb 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: adults; people who enjoy reading historical/contemporary fiction
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.
There are few likeable characters in this book. I think that’s why I liked it so much. We can only bend so much before we break.
Aug 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
4.2 stars a beautiful novel. Heartbreaking. Full review to come soon
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Print size. 1 3 Nov 04, 2019 11:51AM  
Goodreads Librari...: Please correct page count - If You Leave Me 3 14 Aug 28, 2019 09:33PM  
Play Book Tag: If You Leave Me, by Crystal Hana Kim - 3 stars 5 21 Mar 18, 2019 02:44PM  
Play Book Tag: If You Leave Me (Historical Fiction) 3 23 Feb 24, 2019 07:32PM  

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Crystal Hana Kim’s debut novel If You Leave Me was named a best book of 2018 by multiple outlets, including The Washington Post, Booklist, Literary Hub, and Nylon. It was also longlisted for the Center for Fiction Novel Prize. Kim was a 2017 PEN America Dau Short Story Prize winner and has received scholarships from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, Sewanee Writers’ Conference, Hedgebrook, and J ...more

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