Simon and Schuster UK is to publish debut author Soon Wiley's "wonderfully layered" novel When We Fell Apart.
Bethan Jones, commissioning editor, struck the deal with Catherine Cho at the Madeleine Milburn Literary Agency, acquiring UK and Commonwealth rights at auction. North American rights were bought in a "major" deal by Lindsey Rose at Dutton, with the book slated for global hardback release in spring 2022.
The novel is described as "upmarket reading-group fiction with a central mystery at its heart, for fans of Celeste Ng and Delia Owens". It juxtaposes chapters from its two lead protagonists, Min and Yu-jin, who are in a relationship, in the immediate aftermath and lead-up to Yu-jin’s death.
The synopsis explains: "The novel opens with [Yu-jin] being found dead in her Seoul apartment from an apparent suicide. The police, along with Yu-jin’s family and friends, all cite academic pressure as a cause for her death, but Yu-jin has always been studious, excelling in this area of her life. This explanation does not make sense to Min: he was on a date with Yu-jin not 12 hours before her death, when she seemed completely happy, completely herself. Believing something is deeply wrong, Min becomes fixated on discovering the truth.
"The novel beautifully explores the nature of belonging and the complicated and layered mechanisms of relationships. It’s about the most secret parts of yourself that perhaps no one can ever truly understand or know. It’s about the universal and totally unique experience of searching for yourself and the difficulty, and danger, of doing this under the weight of societal expectations."
Commenting on the book, Jones said: "I fell in love with this novel when I first read it. Soon’s writing is so wonderfully layered, cutting to the heart of his characters and effortlessly bringing the vibrancy of Seoul to life. His exploration of Min and Yu-jin’s relationship and experiences is cathartic and painful but also liberating, and the pacy and intriguing central mystery propelled me through the story. I’m so excited about this book and I can’t wait to launch it next year."
Wiley received his BA in English and Philosophy from Connecticut College. He holds an MFA from Wichita State University and is currently pursuing an MA in Writing from Johns Hopkins University. His fiction has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and earned him fellowships at Brush Creek Residency for the Arts in Wyoming and CAMAC – Centre d’Art in France. He currently teaches English at Sidwell Friends in Washington DC.
He said: "I can’t wait for readers to discover Min and Yu-jin’s triumphs and struggles as they search for a sense of belonging in Seoul. I’m thrilled and honoured that When We Fell Apart will be published by Simon & Schuster in the UK."
Cho added: "I was immediately captivated by Soon’s writing and this story of loneliness and belonging. Soon is a special talent, and I’m excited for Bethan and the S&S team to bring this debut to the world."