I felt this story in a way that was far more visceral than I expected. Eagerly looking forward to the finished novel. Thank you Crystal.
Hi real readers, this is Crystal. I can't wait to hear your thoughts on my story! I'm happy to answer any questions as well. Enjoy!
WOW!!!! I think this is my new favourite writing style. I'm shook
Oh, well thank you so much! My novel, If You Leave Me, is coming out in August and it will feature these same characters. You can check out my website www.crystalhanakim.com for more information.
Just pre-ordered on Amazon! :D
Loved the story! I thought the descriptions and the depiction's of Solee's thoughts were beautiful and created a captivating read. I liked how Solee seemed so innocent, yet she also had a great deal of understanding of the situation at the same time.
Thank you so much, Drew! I had a great time delving into the mind of this intelligent young girl. I appreciate you taking the time to read my story. If you're interested, my novel is coming out in August and it will feature these same characters!
Hi Crystal, thank you so much for sharing this beautiful story! I love how even though she was young and didn’t know the backstory Solee was able to pick up on the nuances of the interactions between the adults around her and get a sense of what was happening without overhearing any of their dialog. For me this speaks to the universality of the feelings that arise when we find ourselves forming an attachment to or becoming detached from someone. The exact details of the relationships between Jisoo, Haemi and Kyunghwan are not important since we all understand the emotions involved and the commonality of resentment and regret. From Solee’s perspective as a child her short arc of infatuation and disillusion with Kyunghwan could feel just as impactful as the struggle her parents were dealing with. This was a great reminder that I need to read more fiction/short stories.
Hi Jeff, thank you for your kind words! I think fiction is so wonderful because of its ability to transport the reader immediately into complex situations and scenes. The university of feelings, as you describe it, can be felt through fiction in ways that it cannot always be felt in reading nonfiction. For example, although "Solee" takes place in rural Korea, I wanted the child's emotions to be relatable across time, age, and space. I'm so glad you enjoyed it!
Underneath everything happening in this story is a rumination on the frightening and undeniable reality that we essentially are our parents in more ways than we often wish to imagine. And, as an extension, we're likely to be attracted to the same type of people. So this isn't just a child's version of a love triangle, it's a child's misunderstanding that some kind of love square is happening, and that she's a part of the action.
The ending is strong, painfully ambiguous. I was surprised that Solee's love for Kyunghwan prevailed over the devastation to the entire family. That she would still say "I don't want you to go," and "You don't love me," so late in the game. And that ultimately she only turns on Kyunghwan after she perceives his turning away from her. That super-subtle whiff of competition between Solee and mother is bizarre & fascinating. Awesome.
I think parent-child relationships are fascinating, and I'm particularly drawn to mother-daughter relationships. I did an interview with about this story, and the interviewer asked me about the ending and why Solee's love for Kyunghwan doesn't change by the end. Here's the interview if you're interested: https://catapult.co/community/stories/a-conversation-with-pen-america-best-debut-short-story-author-crystal-hana-kim
And thanks for the New Yorker link! Can't wait to reread. Love Jennifer Egan!
Crystal, I loved this. It reminded me of Safari from A Visit from the Goon Squad, my favorite book of all time. In that chapter, a brother and sister watch and listen as their father's girlfriend falls in love with their safari driver and arranges to have an affair.
You understand the way kids perceive what's going on without adults realizing it. You really capture how children pick up on their surroundings and make sense of their worlds. I love the subtle descriptions of Solee becoming aware of her own feminine sexuality, such as the dog's ribs that mirror her own unnamed hunger.
You nailed Kyunghwan in that I have such a strong image of him in my head -- classic mysterious attractive man on a motorcycle, but he's so much more than an archetype. I love that I finished the story wanting more -- what was wrong with Jisoo's arm, did Haemi and Kyunghwan have a relationship history, will Haemi and Jisoo stay together? You brilliantly leave the reader craving more.
Erica, I could not have asked for a better reader! Thank you so much for reading "Solee" with such care and generosity. I really enjoyed reading the questions you still have about these characters too. I think the best stories leave the reader curious for more, and I personally love it when characters take on a life of their own in the readers' imaginations. I'm going to return to A Visit from the Goon Squad now. I loved that book, but I can't remember the Safari scene you reference. Will have to reread!
Fun fact: Before Safari was a chapter in Goon Squad, it was a short story in The New Yorker. Check it out here: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2010/01/11/safari-3
I found the narrative to be heartbreakingly beautiful. I loved how you were able to seamlessly interweave so many different narratives, all observed through the eyes of a very perceptive child. To echo the other commenters on here, I can't wait to read more of your work!
Thank you so much, adww89! I am relatively new to publishing my work, so I have really been enjoying hearing everyone's responses. Your words mean a lot to me. If you'd like to read more, my novel "If You Leave Me" will be published next summer by William Morrow / HarperCollins!
Love the story and your writing, Crystal. It is a beautiful coming of age tail that certainly transcends cultures. Solee navigating the world of adults with a keen eye while falling in love with a man whose breath smelled like tea. There was such honesty in all their interactions; mother/daughter (Solee was still young enough to bury her head in her mothers belly) sisters (Solee caring for her sisters by imitating her mothers discipline). You write with a lightness and ease and I can't wait to read more.
Well thank you so much, Joanne! I really appreciate your kind words. Even though "Solee" is set in Korea, I wanted the emotions to transcend cultures. My debut novel is forthcoming next summer, and it is actually about this same family!
Beautiful story, Crystal. I was particularly drawn to the way the mother exists in the story. I love the way the daughter sees her even though she is obvious "competition" with Kyunghwan. Those layers are beautiful and fierce. Thank you.
Hi swizco, Thank you for your kind words. I love the inherent complexities in mother / daughter narratives, and so I had a lot of fun writing this story. I'm so happy to hear you enjoyed reading it.
Hi Crystal, A beautiful morning read, the innocence and purity of this is wonderful. I particularly enjoyed the 'soft sell' just allowing the reader to visit and wander into the story.
A really nice way to detach from all the 'hard-news' issues of the last few days.
Thanks, today might a nicer day.
Hi Jamie, thank you for your kind words! I like to read (and write) stories that do not always have an obvious agenda or plot, so I'm glad you enjoyed the wandering nature of this piece. Fiction can a nice escape, and sometimes we need that respite from the world, don't we? I hope you had a good day!