November 11, 2020 8:36 AM EST

In her deftly crafted debut novel, Frances Cha alternates between the perspectives of four different women in Seoul as they navigate romantic and financial crises, filial expectations, career aspirations and deeply held traumas. Each of the women dreams of escape from her hapless situation through different routes: Kyuri, through her beauty; Miho, through her art; Wonna, through her unborn child; and Ara, through a K-pop star. Cha, who grew up in South Korea, Hong Kong and the U.S., imbues each character with her own unique voice as they all fight through a grim depiction of modern-day Seoul, where repressive misogyny and class tensions still are all too common.

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