Thursday, October 5, 2023

What We Kept to Ourselves: A Novel Nancy Jooyoun Kim

The New York Times bestselling author of the Reese’s Book Club pick The Last Story of Mina Lee returns with a timely and surprising new novel about a family’s search for answers following the disappearance of their mother.

1999: The Kim family is struggling to move on after their mother, Sunny, vanished a year ago. Sixty-one-year-old John Kim feels more isolated from his grown children, Anastasia and Ronald, than ever before. But one evening, their fragile lives are further upended when John finds the body of a stranger in the backyard, carrying a letter to Sunny, leaving the family with more questions than ever about the stranger’s history and possible connections to their mother.

1977: Sunny is pregnant and has just moved to Los Angeles from Korea with her aloof and often-absent husband. America is not turning out the way she had dreamed it to be, and the loneliness and isolation are broken only by a fateful encounter at a bus stop. The unexpected connection spans the decades and echoes into the family’s lives in the present as they uncover devastating secrets that put not only everything they thought they knew about their mother but their very lives at risk.

Both a riveting page-turner and moving family story, What We Kept to Ourselves masterfully explores the consequences of secrets between parents and children, hus­bands and wives. It is the story of one unforgettable family’s search for home when all seems lost, and a powerful meditation on identity, migration, and what it means to dream in America.

Paperback, 416 pages
Expected publication October 10, 2023
 by Atria Books
4.5/5 stars

This is my first time reading a Nancy Jooyoun Kim book. Thanks to Simon & Schuster CA for a print ARC.

Beginning in 1999 Koreatown,  Los Angeles at the home of the Kim family. There is a mama, papa, brother and sister, the all-American family, they are anything but. The story weaves back-and-forth in time as the young married couple begins a new life in America 20 years prior. This is the story of their life, struggles, all the while working hard and trying to make this new country feel like a home. Told from a number of different POVs got into the heart of this family.

This was a well written, emotional read. There are many layers that keep the story going.  Aside from a family saga, there is mystery, a bit of suspense, but ultimately it is about those searching for themselves, loneliness, and the struggles facing immigrants in a new country. At times I felt maybe it was a bit too long but I can't really think of what to omit.  Definitely a book I recommend.

What We Kept to Ourselves releases on Oct 10, a book I highly recommend.

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