A riveting debut novel set in contemporary Seoul, Korea, about four young women making their way in a world defined by impossible standards of beauty, after-hours room salons catering to wealthy men, ruthless social hierarchies, and K-pop mania
“Powerful and provocative . . . a novel about female strength, spirit, resilience—and the solace that friendship can sometimes provide.”—The Washington Post
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY Time • NPR • Esquire • Bustle • BBC • New York Post • InStyle
Kyuri is an achingly beautiful woman with a hard-won job at a Seoul “room salon,” an exclusive underground bar where she entertains businessmen while they drink. Though she prides herself on her cold, clear-eyed approach to life, an impulsive mistake threatens her livelihood.
Kyuri’s roommate, Miho, is a talented artist who grew up in an orphanage but won a scholarship to study art in New York. Returning to Korea after college, she finds herself in a precarious relationship with the heir to one of the country’s biggest conglomerates.
Down the hall in their building lives Ara, a hairstylist whose two preoccupations sustain her: an obsession with a boy-band pop star, and a best friend who is saving up for the extreme plastic surgery that she hopes will change her life.
And Wonna, one floor below, is a newlywed trying to have a baby that she and her husband have no idea how they can afford to raise in Korea’s brutal economy.
Together, their stories tell a gripping tale at once unfamiliar and unmistakably universal, in which their tentative friendships may turn out to be the thing that ultimately saves them.
About the Author
Frances Cha is a former travel and culture editor for CNN in Seoul. She grew up in the United States, Hong Kong, and South Korea. A graduate of Dartmouth College and the Columbia University MFA writing program, she has written for The Atlantic, The Believer, and the Yonhap News Agency, among others, and has lectured at Columbia University, Ewha Womans University, Seoul National University, and Yonsei University. She lives in Brooklyn.
“The chapters alternate among the women, each one breathing new life into the old chestnut, ‘You never know what goes on behind closed doors.’ . . . Take a closer look and you’ll find the sisterhood at the heart of this ambitious book. It’s the scaffolding—and also, occasionally, the wrecking ball.”—The New York Times Book Review
“[Cha] has a biting wit and an eye for absurd glitz. . . . Ultimately, female friendship bolsters precarious fortunes in this gripping novel—compelling readers to consider what remains after beauty fades.”—O: The Oprah Magazine
“An enthralling tale about the weight of old traumas, economic disparity and the restoring power of friendship . . . [A] powerful debut.”—People
"If I Had Your Face isn’t just a good book—it’s a book we need, badly. . . . The vivid characters at the novel’s core make for a compelling read, and in a time of such global division, hopefully a uniting one. . . . If you read one book this month, make it If I Had Your Face.”—InStyle
“[A] powerful and provocative rendering of contemporary South Korean society, one that might be considered bleak if not for the women themselves, who occasionally surprise with their compassion and bravery. At heart, If I Had Your Face is a novel about female strength, spirit, resilience—and the solace that friendship can sometimes provide.”—The Washington Post
“Magnificent . . . With unblinking focus, [Cha] confronts some of the darkest consequences of contemporary gender inequity.”—Booklist (starred review)
“Searing . . . Essential reading in what Jia Tolentino memorably called the age of Instagram face.”—Vogue (UK)
“Make way for Frances Cha, an entrancing new voice who guides us into the complexities and contradictions of modern-day Seoul, a dissonant, neon world that is ripped open to bare the same universal and human challenges that face us all. I devoured this novel in a single sitting.”—Janice Y. K. Lee, New York Times bestselling author of The Piano Teacher
“Few American novelists know Seoul the way Frances Cha does and in her intimate, panoramic debut, she brings that dazzling city to life. There are voices here you haven’t heard before. . . . An enthralling read from the very first page.”—Ed Park, author of Personal Days
“Troubling, kaleidoscopic, and hugely enjoyable.”—Nell Zink, author of Mislaid