Seoul, 1978. Read more...
Seoul, 1978. At South Korea's top university, the nation's best and brightest compete to join the professional elite of an authoritarian regime. Success could lead to a life of rarefied privilege and wealth; failure means being left irrevocably behind.
For childhood friends Jisun and Namin, the stakes couldn't be more different. Jisun, the daughter of a powerful business mogul, grew up on a mountainside estate with lush gardens and a dedicated chauffeur. Namin's parents run a tented food cart from dawn to curfew; her sister works in a shoe factory. Now Jisun wants as little to do with her father's world as possible, abandoning her schoolwork in favor of the underground activist movement, while Namin studies tirelessly in the service of one goal: to launch herself and her family out of poverty.
But everything changes when Jisun and Namin meet an ambitious, charming student named Sunam, whose need to please his family has led him to a prestigious club: the Circle. Under the influence of his mentor, Juno, a manipulative social climber, Sunam becomes entangled with both women, as they all make choices that will change their lives forever.
In this sweeping yet intimate debut, Yoojin Grace Wuertz details four intertwining lives that are rife with turmoil and desire, private anxieties and public betrayals, dashed hopes and broken dreams--while a nation moves toward prosperity at any cost.
Praise for Everything Belongs to Us
"The intertwined lives of South Korean university students provide intimacy to a rich and descriptive portrait of the country during the period of authoritarian industrialization in the late 1970s. Wuertz's debut novel is a Gatsby-esque takedown, full of memorable characters."--The New York Times Book Review (Editors' Choice)
"Wuertz's masterful novel traces the paths of two friends who come from very different backgrounds, but whose trajectories have taken them to the same point in time. This is a story of love and passion, betrayal and ambition, and it is an always fascinating look at a country whose many contradictions contribute to its often enigmatic allure."--Nylon
"Less a debut and more an arrival, this arresting first novel from Yoojin Grace Wuertz brings to life a South Korea poised on the brink of transformation and the young people caught up in its turbulence. . . . Readers will easily draw parallels between the South Korean generation pictured here and today's millennials, both groups of young people set to inherit sink-or-swim social orders with huge gaps in wealth. . . . Powerful and absorbing, Everything Belongs to Us introduces a new and compelling voice."--Shelf Awareness
"Hauntingly relevant . . . hums with exquisite tensions . . . The novel reveals an exciting place and time, in the catalytic sense, and all the more-so for us as visitors who are surrounded by its echoes--class, sex, race--even now."--Paste
"Engrossing . . . Wuertz is an important new voice in American fiction."--Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
" A] memorable debut . . . Wuertz crafts a story with delicious scenes and plot threads."--Publishers Weekly
"An absorbing debut destined for major lists and nominations."--Booklist
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2016-12-19
- Reviewer: Staff
Wuertzs memorable debut takes place in 1978 Seoul and follows four university studentstwo boys, two girlsas they work and fumble their way through a school year of camaraderie and betrayal. The girlsNamin, a serious student seen as her poor familys one hope at financial success, and Jisun, her wealthy childhood pal bent on becoming a labor activistfind their friendship in flux as they begin drifting down separate paths toward adulthood. Their story lines bring them in contact with Sunam, a charming student struggling to find his spot on the social ladder, and Juno, a more experienced boy sponsoring Sunam as a pledge to the university social club, the Circle. Juno desires Jisun, who eschews his interest, and Sunam and Namin become a romantic item after meeting at a party held by the Circle. But it isnt long before Namins studies and family lifean American GI impregnates her older sisterpulls her away from Sunams affection, and he begins spending more time with the seductive Jisun. Wuertz crafts a story with delicious scenes and plot threads, perceptively showing the push and pull of relationships in a strictly mannered society. (Feb.)