An unflinching portrayal of the Korean immigrant experience from an extraordinary new talent in fiction.
Spanning Korea and the United States, from the postwar era to contemporary times, Krys Lee's stunning fiction debut, Drifting House, illuminates a people torn between the traumas of their collective past and the indignities and sorrows of their present.
In the title story, children escaping famine in North Korea are forced to make unthinkable sacrifices to survive. The tales set in America reveal the immigrants' unmoored existence, playing out in cramped apartments and Koreatown strip malls. A makeshift family is fractured when a shaman from the old country moves in next door. An abandoned wife enters into a fake marriage in order to find her kidnapped daughter.
In the tradition of Chang-rae Lee's Native Speaker and Jhumpa Lahiri's Interpreter of Maladies, Drifting House is an unforgettable work by a gifted new writer.
A Temporary Marriage
Three years after her ex-husband and their daughter, Yuri, disappeared to California, Mrs. Shin designed clothes by day and sold handprinted scarves by night to save the necessary sum of money to depart Seoul and come to America. In order to find her daughter, she had assented to move into a stranger's two-bedroom condo on the fringes of Culver City - like two apartments! They would share the common space, nothing more. That had been the agreement.
But now that she had arrived, she saw that the living arrangements could be dangerous. The duplex was hot and cramped inside: a thready chintz sofa, the display cabinets heavy with souvenirs, the cumbersome oak table stained with the marks of sweating glasses, all seemed to touch one another. The kitchen faced the living room, and the living room, Mr. Rhee's bedroom. If he leaves the door open, she thought, we will see each other each time I look up from the cutting board. The lamp that Mr. Rhee switched on cast ...
Lee reminds readers (with a welcome absence of nihilism) that hardship is worth paying attention to, not just for the empathy it draws forth, or for the strength found in characters who manage to come out on the other side, but for its ability to connect people across time and cultures. Especially recommended for fans of stories with a variety of younger narrators.
(Reviewed by Karen Rigby).
Full Review (841 words).
Located on the southern half of the Korean peninsula between the Yellow Sea and the Sea of Japan, South Korea (or, officially, The Republic of Korea) is a democratic country approximately the size of Indiana. It was created in 1948, after the second World War, following a lengthy period of annexation and occupation by the Japanese. South Korea's capital, Seoul, is believed to have been originally established as Wiryeseong by the Baekje (18 BCE - 660 CE), one of the Three Kingdoms of Korea, though it has held other names. The city is now a global metropolis and major financial center consisting of twenty-five gu (districts with their own governments that are divided into neighborhoods).
Seoul's population of 10.5 million (like the country...
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