book review

If You Leave Me by Crystal Hana Kim {Review}


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.


What an intense and incredible story. The way the story progresses was not what I was expecting. It was as if I went into the story without ever reading any blurbs. You are following two separate families as they are trying to survive the war in Korea.

There is so much hope, tragedy, love, determination, and many other things in this book that I can even name. You have two young men vying for the attention of the same girl. Each for different reasons although they claim they love her both. She has feelings for both young me but the feelings are not the same for each of them. Eventually she marries out of convenience.

The trials and tribulations that each of these characters much endure makes your breath catch in your throat. At times you don’t know who to feel more compassion for.

Another thing that is brought up in this story is the use of opioids as a pain killer. And domestic violence is present in this story as well.

Following these characters through each of their life changes is fascinating and heartbreaking at times. We as people need to realize that problems exist across all cultures and we need to learn more about world history.

I would definitely read more by Crystal Hana Kim. This book definitely spun my reading wheel house. Im just sorry it took me so long to get it off my shelf and read.


4 Golden Girls


Available now in hardcover, ebook, paperback, and audiobook

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