Min is a young Korean -American man who has taken a job in Korean. He has always felt like he never quite fit into his life. Perhaps moving to Seoul and exploring his heritage will bring a sense of belonging. He meets and begins to date Yu-jin, a young woman also trying to find peace in her life, a place, a belonging. She is an only child and is expected to excel and achieve the goals her parents have laid out before her.
Now, this isn't a spoiler as it's front and center in the publisher's description. Yu-jin dies. Was she murdered? Or was it suicide? This news hits Min extremely hard. He can't understand why or how she died and takes it upon to seek out the answer to those questions.
Wiley tells his story in dual timelines - the present for Min and the time before her death for Yu-jin. Wiley did a fantastic job of bringing Yu-jin to life for me, from memories as a young child to the young woman questioning her life, her goals, her wants, her needs and more. As an observer, we can see the danger just waiting to cross her path.
Min becomes focused on nothing but the reasons for her death and who is responsible. We come to know him through his thoughts and actions. The mystery of Yu-jin's death consumes him and as he chases answers, and he realizes he didn't know the real Yu-jin at all. My suppositions on whodunit changed often as I read.
I loved the vibrant descriptions of Seoul, the people, the food, the attractions, the shops, the karaoke bars and more.
Wiley deftly explores family relationships and their expectations, the search for one's identity, culture, love and more. His prose are eloquent and nuanced, making for thoughtful, introspective reading. See for yourself - read an excerpt of When We Fell Apart.
"In Korea they call it Han. It's a feeling of sorts A kind of collective despair in response to being conquered and oppressed for long periods of time, over generations. To choose you own destiny - that's what an individual, a nation, craves most. Han is a result of that most basic desire being crushed. "