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The Stone Home

A Novel

by Crystal Hana Kim

The Stone Home by Crystal Hana Kim X
The Stone Home by Crystal Hana Kim
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  • Lucy S. (Ann Arbor, MI)
    Very powerful and important
    The subject matter in this book was brutal but the writing was so beautiful, the prose so insightful that the story also held tenderness and deep explorations of friendship, family, and love. The history that Crystal Hana Kim is sharing is one that needs to be known. Her use of alternating timelines and viewpoints allows for a deeper understanding of the complexities of the situation and how survival can force cruel behavior from good people.
  • Maryanne H. (Delmar, NY)
    Bitter Pill
    The Stone Home, Crystal Hana Kim's latest novel, is a hard book to read. It is a fictionalized story based on atrocities recently come to light. In the 1980s, the government of South Korea sanctioned the establishment of reformatories, basically incarceration and forced labor for people snatched off the streets and considered undesirable.

    At first, I found the book difficult, maybe because of its structure (a one year period in the 80s alternating with an extended meetup thirty years later), or maybe because of the larger cast of characters and the unfamiliar social organization of the reformatory. Not everything is spelled out, although the intense relationship between a mother-daughter duo and a pair of brothers dominates the intertwining narrative.

    As I got into the story, I found the graphic depiction of the violence and downright cruelty difficult to read. Many acts of goodness and solidarity propelled the story forward and provided the characters respite from the grueling trauma of their incarceration but the overall takeaway, rendered in beautiful and precise language, was, for me, despair about what we humans can feel in our hearts and perpetrate on each other. Maybe that is good subject matter for our times.

    For the right book club, The Stone Home would be perfect. Even its title could be unpacked in discussion.
  • Catharine L. (Petoskey, MI)
    A Difficult Read
    The Stone Home is based on true events. In the 70's and 80's, South Korea established an internment camp called The Brothers Home. Only 10 were homeless and many were children, dissidents, and people grabbed off the streets. 516 people died there over 20 years, and torture was common.
    The story is told using alternating time lines and from the perspectives of a camp survivor, Eunju, and a young American Korean girl, Narae.
    It is a story of a mother and daughter's love, and two brothers whose bond is put to an impossible test. There is no happiness here - it is cruelty, hopeless, and pain. It is well written, but the book is so depressing which is why I did not rate it higher.
  • Bill B. (Choctaw, OK)
    Prison Walls
    Ms. Kim has composed a heartfelt, thought-provoking novel. It kept my interest through my three reading time periods. She brought back "The Gulag Archipelago" for me, with similar tortures suffered by the prisoners. Then, there is the conclusion--with the prevailing knife symbol. I felt their pain and their undeniable need to survive.
  • Lynne Z. (San Francisco, CA)
    History Continues to Repeat Itself
    The Stone Home uncovers yet another story of evil, cruelty and inhumanity inflicted upon innocent victims. It is difficult to read about the atrocities that occurred in the "reformatory" institutions of South Korea, and Crystal Hana Kim does not spare the details. What she does so skillfully, however, is to weave this history, with believable characters and a compelling story that kept my interest to the last page. By rotating chapters with Eunju and Sangchul's points of view, and by going back and forth from 1980 to 2011, Kim was able to reveal bits of information slowly and fully develop her characters. My only criticism is that I was often confused with Korean words, especially terms of address. I highly recommend this book for its fine writing and for uncovering a dark period of history.
  • Stephanie K. (Glendale, AZ)
    Hidden Horrors Brought to Light
    Crystal Hana Kim's the Stone Home is a poignant fictional account of "reformatory school" atrocities committed in 1980s South Korea. The novel resonates deeply with today's hot-button topics of child abuse and wartime brutality. Anyone with an interest in hidden history and its resolution, not to mention finding solutions to human trafficking and forced birth, will find it both truthful and horrifying in its implications. Although written about a time long ago, the feelings and issues presented are timeless in nature. The book demonstrates, above all, that people are people, no matter what their circumstances, ethnicity or history.
  • Donna C. (Pismo Beach, CA)
    The Stone Home continues the spotlights provided by Nickel Boys and A Council of Dolls
    As hard as it is to acknowledge and accept the reality of recurrent instances of intentional, institutional human to human cruelty and carnage across our world, the talented authors who bring them to light offer a deeper and realistic understanding of these devastating truths along with hope for a future where such actions can never again occur.

    In her harrowing but remarkably creative and dynamic new novel The Stone Home, Crystal Hana Kim delivers a rich and detailed story of one such "residential school" in South Korea during the 1980s. With memorable and extraordinary characters, their intense relationships and gut-wrenching actions, Kim delivers a seamless, dual timeline picture of human emotions at their best and worst – hate, fear, anger, love and loyalty amid courage and the determination to survive – all alongside a slowly unraveling mystery. I couldn't put it down – definitely the most sorrowful and best book I've read this year!
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