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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You can see the full discussion here. This discussion will contain spoilers!
Some of the recent comments posted about This Burns My Heart:
"... 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
"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
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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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