Published by
William Morrow (August 2018)
Current material
Translatable tx
Fiction & Related items


by Kim, Crystal Hana

IF YOU LEAVE ME is a powerful, elegantly wrought debut novel reminiscent of Lily King's Euphoria and Han Kang's The Vegetarian.

A year has passed since the start of the Korean War, when teenaged Haemi, her mother, and her little brother were forced to flee their home to escape the encroaching Red Army. Now living in a small Southern village among other refugees, Haemi and her childhood friend Kyungwhan risk arrest by sneaking out at night past curfew to drink - and to try to forget, at least temporarily, the pain of their new existence. When Kyungwhan's older cousin, Jisoo, sets his sights on Haemi, she realizes that marrying Jisoo will mean much-needed security for her family but an end to her relationship with Kyungwhan. As Haemi becomes a wife, then a mother, then a lover, the long-simmering tension and secrets between Haemi and the two men become impossible to contain.

The story is broken into five sections spanning sixteen years with chapters that alternate between several characters' points of view. IF YOU LEAVE ME is many things: a timely war story about what it means to be a refugee; a timeless love story with echoes of Brontë's Wuthering Heights; and a riveting, sensual, heartrending exploration of female agency and autonomy. At its heart it is the story of a complicated and conflicted young woman in a changing world.

Crystal Hana Kim holds an MFA from Columbia University and an MS in Education from Hunter College and is also a contributing editor for Apogee Journal. She is the winner of the 2017 PEN Emerging Writers Prize.

Available rights (1)

Language Territory Type Vendor Status
German World All

Antonia Fritz

Available View on Rightsdesk


IF YOU LEAVE ME is a thrilling debut, a lyrical and lovely novel that showcases Crystal Hana Kim's emotional intelligence and empathy for her characters. – Emma Cline

Quote: Blurb

Top Ten First Novels 2018: Kim offers extraordinary insights into modern South Korea as she focuses on Haemi and Kyunghwan, childhood playmates during Japan's brutal colonization who fall in love as hard-drinking refugee teens only to be separated as the country itself is cleaved in two.

Noteworthy: Booklist

Crystal Hana Kim's IF YOU LEAVE ME marks the debut of a striking new voice. A story of family, love, and war set against the violent emergence of modern Korea, Kim has a gift for the lasting image. Moment by moment, her characters come alive. -- Gary Shteyngart

Foreign licence: Client

A riveting story of star-crossed love. . . . lyrical and nuanced.

Review: The Washington Book Review

This is a story worth weeping over, with a fiery and complex heroine that earns the reader's love.

Review: Bookpage

IF YOU LEAVE ME is exhilarating. It is that rare debut that so masterfully weaves a tapestry of love, war, loss, hope, and the forgotten—I didn't want to leave these characters: moment after moment left me breathless, and my heart ached and plummeted by the story's end. Crystal Hana Kim has written a novel that teaches us and guides us, one that captures majestically, perfectly, not only our histories but our present and our future. – Paul Yoon

Quote: Blurb

It's a stunning feat of lyricism, an enthralling, tragic novel brimming with angst and remorse. (Four out of four stars)

Review: USA Today

Both a forbidden love story and a portrait of war and refugee life, If You Leave Me will tear at your heartstrings. A breathtaking can't-put-down read.

Review: Marie Claire

25 Hottest Books of Summer 2018


Kim renders her multivoiced, multilayered ancestral and cultural history into stupendous testimony and indelible storytelling. (starred review)

Review: Booklist

Crystal Hannah Kim's celebrated debut novel can either be read as a tragic love story, in the tradition of Romeo and Juliet, or as a feminist parable of a woman victimized by the Korean war, or even, perhaps, as a symbolic embodiment of Korea itself in the form of a rustic nature goddess broken in two by a pair of male cousins engaged in a violent struggle for her affection.

Review: New York Journal of Books

With riveting emotional power, Kim describes the grueling losses of wartime, the pressures of cultural change, and the dissolution of a marriage over a quarter century. (BBC Culture, Ten books to read in August)

Review: BBC

Crystal Kim has written a remarkably absorbing novel of people enduring the unendurables of war with grace, toughness, and undying love. IF YOU LEAVE ME marks the debut of a natural storyteller. -- Chang-Rae Lee

Quote: Client

IF YOU LEAVE ME is a gorgeous, complex novel of home, identity, love and sacrifice.

Review: Book Reporter

Kim's first novel juxtaposes the horrors of war with the love of family, building into a timely portrait of refugee life.

Review: Entertainment Weekly

At a refugee camp with her widowed mother and brother in 1950s Korea, Haemi Lee must choose between two cousins for her family's sake. Inspired by Kim's grandmother; “this sensitive and hauntingly written novel will easily leave readers wanting more.” (Summer-Fall Best Debut Novels 2018)

Noteworthy: Library Journal

A family struggles to balance tradition and change in Kim's marvelous debut. . . . Kim's lyrical intergenerational saga resonates deeply and will appeal to readers who enjoyed The Orphan Master's Son. (starred review)

Review: Publishers Weekly

Readers who enjoy novels by Jamie Ford and Lisa See will surely appreciate Kim's first work. Filled with brave personalities of all ages and character-driven story lines that are emotionally gripping, this sensitive and hauntingly written novel will easily leave readers wanting more. --- Library Journal

Review: Library Journal

The 20 Hottest Debuts of the Season (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.)

Noteworthy: Goodreads

Kim's generosity of detail so completely transports the reader to Korea (1951–1967), and her commitment to perspective makes for a polyphonically rich and heart wrenching experience.

Interview: The Rumpus

Longlisted for the Center for Fiction's First Novel Prize.

Award News: Client


Noteworthy: The Paris Review

This is a grand, sweeping story that proves that an epic can yield strong, individualized characters while still developing a nuanced perspective that refuses to essentialize war, women, or national identity. (...) The novel impressed me in ways I wasn't expecting, and I'll be keeping my eye on Crystal Hana Kim to see what she'll do next.

Review: The Millions

More like this