Thursday, October 5, 2023

What We Kept to Ourselves

What We Kept to Ourselves by Nancy Jooyoun Kim
10/10/23; 416 pages
Atria Books

What We Kept to Ourselves by Nancy Jooyoun Kim is a recommended domestic drama about a family searching for answers about the disappearance of their mother.

In 1999 the Kim family, father John (61), and grown children Anastasia (Ana) and Ronald, are still struggling after their wife/mother (Sunny/Sunhee) vanished the previous year. When John finds a body in their backyard with a letter addressed to Sunny they are questioning her connection to the strange man.
In 1977 Sunny is married, pregnant, and moved to Los Angeles from Korea with her husband. Sunny has had a hard time adjusting and John is often gone, so she welcomed an unexpected connection at the bus stop with a good Samaritan. The two form a relationship and unknown to John, their son is named after him.

While the plot may pull readers in at the start, the writing is not as smooth and polished as one would expect. The mystery is compelling and will hook readers in, so it would have behooved Kim to concentrate on it. The twists will keep our attention and we will want to know what happens next, so keep the action moving. In spite of the potential, this is a very slow moving novel that can be repetitive, unwieldy, and dogmatic. Yet again I need to caution an author to keep their personal political/social views to themselves as it diminishes a novel. Show us in the plot and dialogue, don't repeatedly tell and lecture us.

As an uneven novel, this is recommended because of the potential and character development, but it could have been so much more.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Atria via Edelweiss.

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