This Burns My Heart: Book summary and reviews of This Burns My Heart by Samuel Park

This Burns My Heart

A Novel

By Samuel Park

This Burns My Heart
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  • Published in USA  Mar 2012,
    336 pages.

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Book Summary

This Burns My Heart is a transcendent love story that vibrantly captures 1960s South Korea and brings to life an unforgettable heroine.

On the eve of her marriage, beautiful and strong-willed Soo-ja Choi receives a passionate proposal from a young medical student. But caught up in her desire to pursue a career in Seoul, she turns him away, having impetuously chosen another man who she believes will let her fulfill her dreams. Instead, she finds herself tightly bound by tradition and trapped in a suffocating marriage, her ambition reduced to carving out a successful future for her only daughter. Through it all, she longs for the man she truly loves, whose path she seems destined to cross again and again.

Epic and intimate, Park's debut offering - based on his own mother's story - is a snapshot of a nation rising from a poor, rural country into a major world power in the aftermath of a devastating war. This Burns My Heart evokes a strong sense of place and era reminiscent of Sarah Waters, and the richly drawn characters and exploration of women's changing roles brings to mind Lisa See. 

First published in hardcover in July 2011.

Reading Group Guide & Author Q&A

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Some of the recent comments posted about This Burns My Heart. Join the discussion! You can see the full discussion here.

"... if Soo-ja were to simply feel sorry for herself, this wouldn't be the book it is."
I found this quote in one blogger's review of the book and was wondering if others agree and how the book may have been different had Soo-ja just given in and followed her husband? - lisag

Do you think Soo-Ja feels pity for Min? Do you?
I think that she might have felt a little pity for him because his family treated him badly. But on the other hand she might not have felt all that bad for him because she was going to use him(so she thought) to further her own career plans. - cheryls

How does the book's title, "This Burns My Heart" relate to the story
I'm sure all of us could name a couple whose marriage seems so wonderful from the outside. How often is that a public personae, though? Soo-Ja seems to want to hide her misery and when Yul begins approaching her she's able to separate what her heart ... - lisag

How far have women of my generation in America come?
I agree with VivianH - things have come a long way since I started working in the mid-80s in England - not least when it comes to what would have been considered then a little light hearted joking around by the more senior men to the younger women, ... - davinamw

How is Soo-Ja’s relationship with her parents similar to that of Min and his parents?
Both try to make their prents happy. Not sure if that ever works. Their parents have so much influence on the children. One set because they love their daughteralthough they don't alwyas show it. The other want their son to use the other's ... - janec

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Protagonist Soo-Ja's story will enthrall in this first-rate literary effort." - Kirkus Reviews

"Inspired by the life of Park's mother, to whom the book is dedicated, this novel has the added gravitas of being embellished truth." - Library Journal

"Smart, affecting, and unabashedly melodramatic, Park's novel of adversity, moral clarity, and love is consuming and cathartic." - Booklist

"I love that Soo Ja Choi's story turns the traditional narrative on its head; here is a woman who, more than anything, does not want to emigrate to solve her problems. She's going to make it in her homeland. And she's not your average "American" heroine - passionate, yes, but also practical and calculating. Perhaps that's the kimchi in this culturally rich story: It's not what you're used to, but you might learn to love it." - NPR, Daniel Goldin

"[T]his is no quiet tale of yearning: the plot kicks in with an unexpected fierceness, and the ensuing action - a kidnapping, fist fights, blackmail - make for a dramatic, suck-you-in chronicle of a thrilling love affair." - Publishers Weekly

"Extraordinary... A page-turner of a book... South Korea provides not only the backdrop of Soo-Ja's story, but also the context for Park's novel, which spans the decades after the Korean War to the beginning of the country's economic boom. In a sense, Soo-Ja's story parallels South Korea's development from a poor, struggling state to a gleaming Asian tiger." - Chicago Tribune

"This Burns My Heart is quietly stunning - a soft, fierce story that lingers in the mind. Samuel Park is a deft and elegant writer; this is a very exciting debut." - Audrey Niffenegger, author of The Time Traveler's Wife

"The very talented Samuel Park weaves a compelling, vivid story of one family's evolution that deftly mirrors Korea's development from ancient country to modern society." - Janice Y.K. Lee, author of The Piano Teacher

The information about This Burns My Heart shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's online-magazine that keeps our members abreast of notable and high-profile books publishing in the coming weeks. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author of this book and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

Reader Reviews

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Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Suzanne G.
A tale of Korea
It is postwar 1960s and 1970s in South Korea. Soo-Ja doesn’t marry the man she loves but marries the man she feels will fulfill her chance at a successful career. The drama of the love story that evolves is a chance for the reader to learn of the development in South Korea as well as the customs. This was an interesting story and a well-flowing plot.

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by cheryl s.
what a story
It's a fabulous story...the main character thinks she can choose the right person for marriage, in order to gain her own personal goals. She finds that she not only made the wrong choice, but also gave up her true love in the bargain. The author also gives a very good insight to the Korean culture. You will find yourself rooting for her with all of the hardships she endures. I loved this book and wished it didn't end. I feel it would be a good book club pick.........

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Ariel F.
Do you follow your dreams or do what is expected?
I read the paperback edition of this book.
Was Soo-Jan going to be a traditional Korean woman or a modern one? This was a fascinating post Korean war story of Soo-Jan who gave up her dream of becoming a diplomat, not willingly, but because of her father and expectations. She meets Yul who she loves the night before her hurried marriage. She hopes that her life will be better and she will be able to fulfill her dream. Instead she is now under the rule of her husband and her life is not better. Now she is dealing with the choice that she made and the situation that she finds herself in. She often thinks about what might have been with Yul instead of her husband.
I found it interesting in that each of us deals with the choices that we make and sometimes we regret them, but have to live with our decisions. I would recommend the book to reading groups, book clubs and anyone that has dealt with or is dealing with choice and what is expected of you verse what you want.

Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Jane Haase
This Burns My Heart
I hate to admit that the cover of a book could influence my opinion but when I received this paperback from BookBrowse for me to read, I was a little put off by the cover. It reeked of soap opera and bad chick lit! So imagine my surprise when I began reading, I couldn't put the book down. I literally did nothing else but read this book to the finish when I started it. I VERY RARELY do this with any book and I am a voracious reader. Not only was it a beautiful love story, it contained very subtle background information about Korean culture and what life was like in Korea before and after the war. The main character was sort of a Korean Scarlett O'Hara ... strong, determined and unable to accept her lot as a Korean woman. The story chronicles her life from the time she was a naive, privileged young woman through the many ups and downs she experienced as she became a woman and mother. The writing was beautifully poetic yet clear to the plot and the characters were well developed. I didn't want the story to end which is usually a good indicator that I loved the book. I will definitely be checking out this author to see if he has written other books. Well done!

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More Information

More Information

Samuel Park is an Assistant Professor of English at Columbia College Chicago. He is a graduate of Stanford and the University of Southern California, where he earned his doctorate in English. He is the author of the short story "Shakespeare's Sonnets" (Alyson Books, 2006) and the writer-director of the short film of the same name, which was an official selection of numerous domestic and international film festivals. He currently divides his time between Chicago and Los Angeles. Visit his website at www.samuelpark.com.

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