The best part of being in a book club is finding those rare gems you would never have stumbled upon alone. If I Had Your Face by Frances Cha was not a book I would have chosen for myself, but it’s absolutely one I’m glad to have read. (Thanks Julia!)
Cha’s debut is a bold exploration of women’s roles and responsibilities in the modern world, and a commentary on how much beauty really lies in the eyes of the beholder. If I Had Your Face is a snapshot look at the lives of four young women living in present-day Seoul, South Korea. Personally, I found it fascinating to compare the modern lifestyle of the novels four protagonists with what we learned about Korean history from The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See.
(Sea Women was our first book club selection. It followed the lives of two Korean women in the 1940s and 50s. Check it out if you haven’t read it already!)
I truly feel that I have a much better understanding of and appreciation for Korean culture after having read both of these novels. This is a book that will really make you feel as if you’ve gained something for having read it. But as much as this novel did broaden my reading horizons, I think the real beauty of it is the sense of universality: this is a book about the sort of loyalty that crosses cultural barriers. It definitely caused me to pause and reflect on all of the wonderful ladies that I count as friends, and how those relationships have grown and changed throughout my life. Cha does a great job of capturing the many layers of female friendship: they are sometimes jealous, sometimes catty, or blunt. But they are unfailingly devoted to one another, even as they struggle to achieve separate goals.
Each chapter feels like a “day in the life” that I think many young women around the world can relate to: trying to find fulfillment and meaning in the wash of financial woes, relationship troubles, new family dynamics, career changes, etc. that are your twenties. And just like in everyday life, things are messy. This is not a plot-heavy book in the sense that the author isn’t guiding you neatly from point A to Z just to wrap up all the action in a neat little bow at the end. So if the ending feels a bit “unfinished”, it’s because it is: their lives are ongoing works of art. And despite some pretty heavy subject matter, (i.e. childhood abuse, suicide, and poverty) Cha leaves you with the impression that together, these ladies can take on the world.
Definitely one to share with your best girlfriends! Send them to the links above to buy a copy today! If you decide to purchase, we will make a small commission, and you’ll be supporting independent bookstores around the country!