Author: Nancy Jooyoun Kim
Published by: Atria Books on Oct. 10, 2023
Genres: Historical Fiction, Mystery/Thriller
Format: ARC, Paperback
Source: Simon & Schuster Canada
Book Rating: 8/10
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.
Simmering, dramatic, and sensitive!
What We Kept to Ourselves is a tender, compelling tale that sweeps you away to Los Angeles between the 1970s and 1999 and into the lives of the Korean-American Kim family as they grapple with the disappearance of the matriarch one year ago, the sudden discovery of a dead man in their backyard in possession of a letter addressed to their missing mother, and all the wounds, secrets, tears, and hurt that seem to have swirled around them forever.
The prose is fluid and smooth. The characters are bitter, troubled, and flawed. And the plot, using flashbacks and a back-and-forth style, is a captivating tale about life, loss, heartache, guilt, love, secrets, revelations, acceptance, familial drama, friendship, hope, racism, misogyny, corruption, forgiveness, introspection, and generational trauma, all interlaced with a sliver of mystery.
Overall, What We Kept to Ourselves is a heartfelt, multilayered, timely tale by Nancy Jooyoun Kim that reminds us that families are complicated and messy, the choices we make often have far-reaching consequences, and secrets often find their way to the surface no matter how well they’re buried.
This novel is available now.
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Thank you to Simon & Schuster Canada for gifting me a copy in exchange for an honest review.