Originally written in Korean by Lee Kkoch-Nim and translated into Japanese by Akiko Yashima, 世界を超えて私はあなたに会いに行く (known in English as I Will Cross Time for You), is a heartwarming, yet heartbreaking story about two young women, both named Eunyu, who are writing letters to each other across time. The story is told exclusively through the letters they write to each other, with one Eunyu writing from 2016 and the other writing starting in 1982.
Through these letters, we learn a lot about each of the women. We learn about their deepest fears and their biggest dreams. There is turmoil for both and a ton of misunderstandings, but also a lot of joy too. This is how the characters develop through time. It is skillfully done and will be sure to move you to tears.
The story begins with present day Eunyu writing a letter to herself on January 2, 2016. The letter is to her future self – she will be putting it in a special mailbox that will deliver the letter after one year. The letter is angry in the way only an angry teenager could make it. This is not something she is doing because she wants to. Rather it is something her father, who she isn’t on good terms with, asked her to do.
Problems arise when a few days later, she receives a reply to her letter from an elementary student, also named Eunyu, living in 1982. At first, present day Eunyu thinks it’s merely a prank and the other Eunyu thinks she is a spy. However, after they have exchanged several letters, the two of them realize that they are actually communicating across time, with time for past Eunyu moving much more quickly between letters.
This is how they decide to help each other. Present day Eunyu will give information to the Eunyu from the past. In exchange, Eunyu from the past makes it her mission to find present day Eunyu’s mother – a woman who present day Eunyu has no memory of. It is a story of the present meeting the past and about how two people can grow close – even across time.
The Art of the Epistolary Novel
世界を超えて私はあなたに会いに行く is an epistolary novel aka a novel written as a series of documents. The story can only progress via the letters that the characters write to each other. This creates a very unique perspective for the reader. The reliability of the narrator is especially important to consider in such novels. You will only know what they think, feel, or choose to provide insight on. That’s important to keep in mind while reading.
In the case of this novel, the story only progresses through the eyes of the two women writing to each other. This limits what readers know about the father, who is actually central to the plot. However, this lack of knowing is really important. Lee gives clues throughout, but it’s up to the reader to pick them up. You are wondering along with both Eunyu from the past and present day Eunyu. It makes the experience of reading the novel all the more authentic and real.
What is Family?
A key theme in 世界を超えて私はあなたに会いに行く is about family. Present day Eunyu doesn’t really have a relationship with her father, despite the fact that he raised her on his own. She has no idea what happened to her mother and her father won’t tell her a thing. This leaves her frustrated and alone, despite the front she puts up.
However, after she begins writing letters to the past Eunyu, things change for her. She has someone she can share her thoughts with and someone she can get advice from. This is really important for Eunyu, especially because she is still an adolescent. But it brings up a good point. What exactly is family? Who belongs in your family? When does a friend become family? These are all important questions to be considered when reading this novel.
世界を超えて私はあなたに会いに行く was beautifully simple, yet complex at the same time. The burden of keeping track of what is fact and what is speculation is high for the reader. Yet this makes the story even more charming. It’s a story about relationships and what it means to be family. A truly moving and wonderful piece of fiction. It would be wonderful to see it in English someday.