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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.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By F.George on 02-28-17
Fascinating, engaging plot, complex characters
Everything Belong to Us is an engaging novel with a compelling plot and a well-developed cast of characters. The plot centers around four college students in 1970s South Korea and moves quickly as their relationships develop and intertwine. Things come to a crescendo at the end as each characters hopes, dreams and aspirations are tested against a tumultuous and fascinating time in the history of a country that most people don’t know enough about. Incidentally, the ending of this book was very satisfying as Wuertz gives you a glimpse of the future of these characters who had so much at stake during the plot.
I don’t usually ready historical fiction since it usually sacrifices plot and writing quality in order for historical accuracy. While it’s clear that Wuertz did a lot of research around the time period (the small details of a rapidly changing country are fascinating) the quality of the writing is top notch. The story is exciting, suspenseful and emotional. The author’s writing lets the story run and doesn’t impede it simply for the sake of being clever or different. It’s a well-written novel where the writing and the plot work together effortlessly. Also, the author does an amazing job provoking empathy for beautifully flawed characters.
Everything Belongs to Us was an engaging read that seemed to carry itself through the majority of the story. At no point did I feel it dragging (I read the whole novel in one day!) and I was always compelled to see the characters’ fates develop. While I think this book would satisfy fans of literary fiction, I think it’ll find a true audience in the mainstream reader who wants a unique story set in an underserved time and place. I’d consider it a must read for anyone interested in Korean history, socioeconomic development, Korean dramas (it would make a fantastic Korean drama!!) but also accessible for any reader who loves a compelling story with truly realistic and interesting characters. Though I know it's a debut novel, it exceeded my expectations. Can't wait to read more from the author. Highly recommended!