Excavations: A Novel (Paperback)

Excavations: A Novel By Hannah Michell Cover Image
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A former journalist turned stay-at-home mother must find her missing husband and protect her children in Excavations, a “sharp, impressive debut about corruption among South Korea’s elite” (The Boston Globe).


Sae is waiting with two clingy toddlers for her husband to come home from work when she learns of a horrific disaster, the collapse of a massive skyscraper where Jae is an engineer. Minutes, then hours, and then days pass. Speculations of North Korean terrorism and structural instability circulate as possible causes of the Tower’s collapse. No one has seen Jae, but things aren’t adding up. Jae had told Sae he was working on a swimming pool on the top floor, but reports showed he was in the basement, on a different project. The government was involved, but the contractors were missing. Sae—who met Jae when they were students at an anti-government protest and has relied on him as her guiding and steadying hand—is troubled and suspicious.

Leaving the children with her estranged mother, Sae sets out to uncover the truth of what happened to her husband. Her investigation takes her to an upscale club where the proprietor, Myonghee, is not merely supplying booze and girls but also seeking information, for her own purposes, from every drunken businessman who lets corporate secrets slip. As Sae begins to find what she sought, she must ask herself: How well can you truly know the one you love and how is truth shaped by power?

About the Author

Hannah Michell grew up in Seoul. She studied anthropology and philosophy at Cambridge University and now lives in California with her husband and children. She teaches in the Asian American and Asian Disapora Studies Program at the University of California, Berkeley. Excavations is her American debut.

Praise For…

“[A] gripping story of love and disaster.”Nylon
“A sharp, impressive debut about corruption among South Korea’s elite.”The Boston Globe
Excavations is not only set in Seoul, but imbued with the city’s history and spirit. . . . Though at its center Excavations is a mystery novel, it weaves together large-scale allegories of capitalism and economic ambition with the smaller-scale drama of a single family in crisis, embedding layers of meaning into a page-turner.”—KQED
“An ambitious thriller that is just as engrossing for the whodunnit as is it for the historical milieu . . . With novels like Excavations, the past will not be easily forgotten—as it shouldn’t.”Asian Review of Books
“A propulsive thriller, grounded in its psychological drama and real-life tragedy . . . Michell skillfully teases out the historical resonances. . . . Threaded throughout are the questions: can we love someone that we did not truly know? What value does truth hold, in a society dominated by patriarchal corruption and power?”Electric Lit

“Carefully crafted with expert pacing, Excavations explores intimate secrets as well as widespread conspiracies with ease.”Debutiful

“Hannah Michell’s Excavations is an enthralling page-turner. In Sae’s search for the truth about her missing husband, she uncovers secrets intimate and sweeping, tracing the student protest movement and exposing corruption among the elite in South Korea. A gripping debut.”—Vanessa Hua, author of Forbidden City

Excavations builds a deeply moving mystery between two real-life catastrophes rooted in political malfeasance, illuminating events that stole lives, galvanized the public, and changed the future of a nation. Michell deftly extends the metaphors of this history to her interconnected fictional families built on lies, omissions, and structural error. The result is a poignant and sinuous story about loss, love, and repair.”—Lydia Kiesling, author of The Golden State

“Excavations is both a tautly written mystery and a clear-eyed examination of deceit, idealism, and burgeoning capitalist development in modern-day South Korea. Through the eyes of Sae, a journalist and former youth activist, Hannah Michell creates transcendent depictions of motherhood, while calling into question what it truly means to know one’s family. Excavations pulls off the rare feat of being both thrilling and profound—a multilayered social commentary and an engaging, propulsive, satisfying read.”—Shanthi Sekaran, author of Lucky Boy

“This superior variation on a familiar thriller trope isn’t easily forgotten.”Publishers Weekly, starred review
Product Details
ISBN: 9780593596074
ISBN-10: 0593596072
Publisher: One World
Publication Date: July 9th, 2024
Pages: 336
Language: English