Everything Belongs to Us by Yoojin Grace Wuertz
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Set in 1978 in South Korea, we start this novel out with the tale of protesters/factory workers who are unhappy with the conditions in their workplaces. We follow four main characters, who each follow different life paths throughout the book and give the readers glimpses to their struggles and victories.
A word that I would use this is clunky but memorable. The narrative switches from one person to another rapidly, and I found it extremely hard to follow along with what was going on with the various storylines. Rarely did they intersect in a way where I understood how the "puzzle pieces" of the story fit in. Also, in the epilogue there was some vague mentions of news of one of the MC's in a newspaper article, but I honestly was very curious to see from their perspective how they feel about being successful in their life. It was just jarring to be traveling with this character throughout this whole book, and then we have no word directly from her fifteen years later, while other character got the stage.
Jinsun and Namin were the two characters who really stood out to me, because I genuinely enjoyed watching their complex female friendship progress through the years, and also a look at the various flashbacks that got them to where they are today.
They were deeply flawed, deeply imperfect characters, but that's what made them more realistic and admirable to me. Namin is an ambitious, brilliant, family oriented women who is on the track to success and has so much potential ahead of her. Jinsun is the daughter of an extremely rich businessmen, one of the top friends with the current leader of South Korean. She floats around in this book, without seeming to lay down roots. While I could appreciate Namin's drive, I could also sympathize with Jinsun's unfortunate circumstances which led her to where she is today.
The historical significance of this, hit very close to home in current events that are going on in the USA. Intentionally or not, I got a sense of relevance and urgency that was coming out of these pages. The framing of the three day protests, the political landscape, the governments actions, seemed to me to be very well researched, although presented in a removed way.
The writing wasn't measuring up to my high expectations, (maybe that's partially my fault), but I felt like this was a just average style that I've seen done dozens of times before in literary fiction. This story felt promising and had lots of potential, yet I felt like the author could have gone farther with what she said. Granted, she's a debut author, and I can respect that fact and give her wiggle room to grow in her future projects.
This story features friendship, familial responsibilities, coming into your adulthood, activism, political intrigue, and the moral dilemmas that people face everyday. It falls into the literary historical fiction category. Overall, I enjoyed the reading experience itself and would recommend for fans of these topics and genre to definitively pick it up.
**Thanks to the publisher for sending me an arc in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.**
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