Love Love

Booklist Editors’ Choice: Adult Books, 2015
Smithsonian BookDragon’s Top 25 APA Book Picks for 2015

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An edgy, tender novel about art and athletics, family and adoption, remembrance and forgiveness – and Judy and Kevin, a sister and brother who share more than they know.

Judy Lee’s life has not turned out the way she’d imagined. She’s divorced, she’s broke, and her dreams of being a painter have fallen by the wayside. Her co-worker Roger might be a member of the Yakuza gang, but he’s also the only person who’s asked her on a date in the last year.

Meanwhile, her brother Kevin, a former professional tennis player, has decided to donate a kidney to their ailing father — until it turns out that he’s not a genetic match. His father reveals he was adopted, but the only information Kevin is given about his birth parents is a nude centerfold of his birth mother. Ultimately Kevin’s quest to learn the truth about his biological parents takes him across lines he never thought he’d cross: from tony Princeton to San Francisco’s seedy Tenderloin district, from the classy tennis court to the gritty adult film industry.

Told in alternating chapters from the points of view of Judy and Kevin, Love Love is a story about two siblings figuring out how to live, how to love, how to be their best selves amidst the chaos of their lives.


“Love, particularly for Kevin, requires letting go rather than holding on.  Moving, warm, and tender, Woo has written another winning novel.”

Bill Drucker, The Korean Quarterley

“A quick read, Love Love is a heartfelt and humorous pick-me-up for those days when everyday life seems a little uninspiring or a little uncertain.”

Alison Yee, Hyphen Magazine (5/12/2016)

“Woo is currently two-for-two with rollicking novels about Korean American family dysfunction starring a pair of New Jersey siblings. If Woo’s 2009 debut, Everything Asian, was charming and youthful, this new work is practically middle-aged, a biting, jaw-scraping, guffaw-inducing bit of fun complete with porn stars, rebel artists, and an aging, loyal dog who just might break your heart. Perfect for devotees of impossibly serendipitous comic fiction à la Carl Hiaasen and Tom Robbins and enhanced with multi-generational, cross-cultural depth.”

Terry Hong, Library Journal, starred review (10/15/2015)

“Through preparing to donate a kidney to his ailing father, Kevin discovers hidden truths about his parentage that lead him on a quest through San Francisco’s pornographic demimonde. Woo handles these and other twists with a quiet, inviting style.”

Dylan Hicks, CityPages

“Love Love is a joy to read, as it represents a sort of 2.0 release of the Korean American Immigrant Novel; in other words, it’s a chronicle of what happened to my generation after the glory days of academic accolades and model minority-dom became a distant memory.”

Euny HongKoreAm Journal (8/28/2015)

“Woo’s observations about aging, loss, and disillusionment are so smart, so sharp and astute that they’ll haunt readers long after the final page has been turned. That he manages to find the beauty, humor, and even optimism in the struggle makes this glorious, at times painful, but always rewarding novel a stunning achievement.”

Booklist, starred review (8/1/2015)

“Woo’s narrative takes serendipitous turns—he has a knack for making these twists seem organic, like things that would happen in life.”

Publishers Weekly (7/27/2015)

“A writer of deep pathos and empathy, Woo (Everything Asian, 2009) has given us a deeply felt novel of parents and children, husbands and wives—the many ways we try to connect and fail; and how sometimes, somehow, we succeed.”

Kirkus Reviews (7/1/2015)

Advance praise:

“You will love Love Love. Like Kevin on the tennis court, Sung J. Woo marries brute force with clever misdirection; brilliant flourishes with measured restraint; craft with strategy. The result is a gem of a novel, by turns poignant, heartbreaking and wickedly funny. The only dangling thread: when’s the film adaptation coming out?”

Jon Wertheim, Sports Illustrated executive editor and author of Strokes of Genius: Federer, Nadal, and the Greatest Match Ever Played

“Love Love is sad and funny and full of absolutely brilliant writing.”

Stewart O’Nan, bestselling author of West of Sunset and The Odds

“Love Love is a wonderful book about two characters I fell for instantly. I was hooked by the novel’s unexpected twists and pitfalls, which kept me on the edge of my seat all the way until the end. Sung J. Woo’s sure voice and beautiful descriptions will seduce any reader who enjoys a good story about love that doesn’t come easy. A great read.”

Katie Crouch, bestselling author of Girls in Trucks and Abroad

“With antic humor and boundless sympathy, Sung J. Woo gives his broken characters something to reach for. Love Love is an ace.”

Ed Park, author of Personal Days

“Sung J. Woo’s Love Love is a wonderful read — funny, tender, touching, and true. This is the novel about tennis, porn, art, and family that the world has been waiting for.”

Alix Ohlin, author of Signs and Wonders and Inside

“Sung J. Woo has written a surprising, moving novel that powerfully explores notions of family, creativity, skill, and — yes — love.”

Louisa Thomas, staff writer at Grantland and author of Conscience: Two Soldiers, Two Pacifists, One Family–a Test of Will and Faith in World War I

“This tale of unconventional love in unconventional families is funny, knowing, and always surprising. Love Love has got it all: tennis, of course, but also organized crime, pornography, a venomous snake, and more twists than a bag of Rold Golds. Give it half a chance and it will charm the terry-cloth headband off you.”

J. Robert Lennon, author of Familiar and See You in Paradise

Reading group questions:

  1. This novel alternates between two points of view, Kevin and Judy. How does this help (or hinder) the narrative? Did you find yourself enjoying one story more than the other?
  2. If you had to pick a villain in this novel, who would it be, and why?
  3. Roughly around the middle of the novel, there’s a section that, well, let’s just say it stands out. Why do you think the writer chose to present this character’s story in this manner? Do you think it could’ve been done any other way?
  4. Compare the characters Roger Nakamura and Claudia X. How are they similar or different to each other? What larger philosophies/ideals could they represent?
  5. How “Korean” does this novel feel to you?

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9 thoughts on “Love Love

  1. Dear Mr. Woo, I just read the piece about playing catch with your dad. I am also interested in getting your book, which I will look for. I am writing a book on baseball from the fan’s perspective, and I am gathering short stories from folks about their experiences with all aspects of the game. I don’t know if you will receive this note, so I will not go into long detail. I would like to know if you have a short memory, perhaps that one, that you would be willing to share with me. I hope to hear from you.

    Eric Gray

  2. Read your piece in the NY Times. Beautiful story, man. My father was crazy about baseball and so was I. When I grew apart from him, starting in my preteen years, baseball seemed like — no, it was! — the only thing that held us together.

  3. Mr. Woo,
    Came here from your opinion piece in the New York Times. It was especially poignant to me as a fellow Korean-American immigrant. I’ll be on the lookout for your books.

  4. Beautiful contribution to Exquisite Corpse at Wonderland (Texas Book Fest). It moved me to listen to your short piece about husband and wife. Can’t wait to read Love Love.

    • Thank you so much, Amy! I had such a great time writing it. The whole festival was just fantastic in every way — I’m so glad I was there!

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