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Summary and book reviews of Drifting House by Krys Lee

Drifting House

by Krys Lee

Drifting House
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Feb 2012, 224 pages
    Paperback:
    Dec 2012, 224 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Karen Rigby

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About this Book

Book Summary

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 ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. The title story in the collection, "Drifting House," tells of two young brothers attempting to escape from North Korea to China. Why did Lee select that story as the title story? What does the title refer to?


  2. What concerns and emotions unite the stories in this collection? If you had to describe the book to a friend in a sentence or two, what would you say?


  3. Certain characters appear in more than one story; identify these stories and characters. How do the narratives influence each other and alter your understanding of those characters? Why did the author choose to connect the stories in this way?


  4. Drifting House focuses specifically on the Korean and Korean American experience. If this setting is foreign to you, does it make it ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse

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 Members Only (536 words).

Media Reviews
Library Journal

Starred Review. Readers in search of exquisite short fiction beyond their comfort zone - groupies of Jhumpa Lahiri (Unaccustomed Earth) and Yoko Tawada (Where Europe Begins) - will thrill to discover Lee's work.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. The limpid, naturalistic prose and the flawless internal logic of these stories are reminiscent of the best of Katherine Anne Porter and Carson McCullers.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. Lee writes with a clarity and simplicity of style that discloses deep and conflicting emotions about cultural identity.

Author Blurb Philip Schultz, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Failure
Sometimes, with luck, passion, and great skill, fiction accomplishes things nothing else can, things of magical and abiding significance. Krys Lee's debut story collection is such a book. Drifting House is important for its heartbreaking depiction of the often horrifying plight of North and South Korean immigrants struggling to find dignity and self-definition in their new lives. It introduces us to a subject as old as human struggle itself, and a powerful new writer of highly lyrical gifts.

Author Blurb Janice Y. K. Lee, author of New York Times bestselling The Piano Teacher
What wonderful and haunting worlds Krys Lee illuminates - a goose for a goose father, a sympathetic wife made bold by her husband's infidelity - all facets of a Korea and a Korean America made new by this exciting writer's entrancing vision.

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Seoul, South Korea

map of Seoul, South KoreaLocated 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).

Gyeongbok PalaceSeoul's population of 10.5 million (like the country...

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