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Publisher's Summary

A riveting debut novel set in contemporary Seoul, South 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.

©2020 Frances Cha (P)2020 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"It's difficult to believe that this is Frances Cha's first novel - she's a masterful storyteller. I was riveted reading about a world I knew nothing about, and from the first page, it was clear Cha was the best possible guide." (Ann Napolitano, New York Times best-selling author of Dear Edward)

"With graceful precision, unflinching honesty, and intimate compassion, Frances Cha writes, in exacting detail, of the desperation and dreams of five young women in modern-day Korea.... A haunting novel of intelligence and sensitivity." (Binnie Kirshenbaum, author of Rabbits for Food)

"Each voice in this quartet cuts through the pages so cleanly and clearly that the overall effect is one of dangerously glittering harmony.... As engrossing as a war chant, or a mosaic formed with blades, every piece a memento sharpened on those unyielding barriers between us and our ideal lives." (Helen Oyeyemi, author of Gingerbread)

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What listeners say about If I Had Your Face

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incredibly enlightening

I listened to the audible production of “If I Had Your Face” by Frances Cha. This highly rated novel includes four female narrators who provide the reader with the soul-crushing beauty expectations in South Korea. From this story, I learned that South Korea has one of the most plastic surgery rates in the world with eyelid and jaw slimming surgeries leading the numbers. What is more astounding is that the jaw surgeries can take over a year to recover. One’s looks ultimately determine one’s wealth and marriage prospects. Thus, plastic surgery is culturally considered very practical in improving one’s life. Cha also reveals South Korea’s consumerism and male dominated culture.

The story takes place in Seoul Korea and follows four young women in an apartment building. Kyuri is a beautiful room salon girl where the rich and elite men go for beautiful female companionship. Kyuri has already undergone multiple plastic surgeries, but finds her looks are fading because of all the heavy drinking required. Her roommate is Miho who is naturally beautiful and is an artist. She relies on the rich to purchase her art. Miho’s narration informs the reader as to the scale of wealth, the hedonistic behavior of the ultra-wealthy when she begins dating a wealthy heir.

Ara is a talented hairdresser who fashions the beautiful women’s hair. She lives across the hall from Kyuri and Miho; Ara dresses Kyuri’s hair daily. Ara is mysteriously mute making her interesting in her ruminations. Ara is obsessed with a K-pop star. Her roommate is Sujin (who doesn’t narrate). Through Ara we see Sujin who will go through extreme measures to gain Korean beauty. Sujin is one of the more tragic characters in her neediness.

Wonna is a pregnant wife. She chose her husband because his mother was dead. In South Korea, there is generally a pernicious wife/mother-in-law relationship. Wonna wants a baby more than anything. Wonna doesn’t play a huge role in the story; she is a working woman who isn’t treated well at work.

Cha’s novel is basically about current Korean culture and obsessions. All the press this novel has received is well earned. The audible production is fantastic.

7 people found this helpful

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Cynical and Great

it reminds me greatly of The Bell Jar hy Sylvia plath and is a wonderful commentary on Korean Society.

5 people found this helpful

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Excellent read, made me think about womanhood

I loved this book. I listened to it every day during my commute and many times I sat in the driveway to finish the chapter. I love stories that include all the inner thoughts and details of characters' lives. I learned something from each of these women. I took it as a commentary on what life is like right now for some women in Korea, but I related as well. Also, loved the way food was woven into the storylines. I hope the author continues the story or writes another book!

4 people found this helpful

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NOT a page turner

6/6 Bookclub friends all rated this as the worst read to date. No chapter kept us engaged... nothing seemed to capture the real story and it really jumped around and yet no ending. Don’t waste your time!

4 people found this helpful

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Lovely, transportive and heartwarming

I really loved this book. It swept me up immediately and kept me interested, informed and delighted to the end. I was really rooting for each character. One of the best books I’ve listened to on audio in a long time. Highly recommend.

4 people found this helpful

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Amazing

Listening to this book while washing the dishes, I’d catch myself standing long after they were done just enraptured by the different characters and their stories. It’s empowering. A great listen.

4 people found this helpful

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This has been my favorite book so far this year

This book was such an unexpected surprise. Just what I needed. I loved the voice for each of the characters and enjoyed this more than any other book, so far this year.

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  • cs
  • 04-28-20

Please make a movie out of this!

I was completely captivated by all the characters and their stories. It is so accurate and of the times. Please make this into a movie!

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Great story

Frances, where is your next book? I am a fan. Looking forward to many more reads from you.

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I kept thinking the story would get better but it did not.

I was interested in the beginning and thought it would become more interesting but it just went down hill rapidly. I did not like this book.

3 people found this helpful