Summary and book reviews of The Kinship of Secrets by Eugenia Kim

The Kinship of Secrets

by Eugenia Kim

The Kinship of Secrets by Eugenia Kim X
The Kinship of Secrets by Eugenia Kim
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  • First Published:
    Nov 2018, 304 pages
    Paperback:
    Nov 5, 2019, 304 pages

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Book Summary

From the author of The Calligrapher's Daughter comes the riveting story of two sisters, one raised in the United States, the other in South Korea, and the family that bound them together even as the Korean War kept them apart.

In 1948 Najin and Calvin Cho, with their young daughter Miran, travel from South Korea to the United States in search of new opportunities. Wary of the challenges they know will face them, Najin and Calvin make the difficult decision to leave their infant daughter, Inja, behind with their extended family; soon, they hope, they will return to her.

But then war breaks out in Korea, and there is no end in sight to the separation. Miran grows up in prosperous American suburbia, under the shadow of the daughter left behind, as Inja grapples in her war-torn land with ties to a family she doesn't remember. Najin and Calvin desperately seek a reunion with Inja, but are the bonds of love strong enough to reconnect their family over distance, time, and war? And as deep family secrets are revealed, will everything they long for be upended?

Told through the alternating perspectives of the distanced sisters, and inspired by a true story, The Kinship of Secrets explores the cruelty of war, the power of hope, and what it means to be a sister.

Excerpt
The Kinship of Secrets

On a chilly summer night, a newsmonger trudged uphill to a residential enclave of Seoul, the last neighborhood on his route. By the dim light of his lantern swinging atop a bamboo pole, he checked his watch, clacked his wooden clappers three times, and, with the crystalline tones of his nighttime newscast, sang, “Attention, please, attention. Tuesday, twenty-seven June, three-thirty a.m. The North Korean People’s Army retreats after our heroic counteroffensive in Uijongbu. Enemy tanks were destroyed, and our forces have mobilized to repulse the enemy all the way to the Yalu River. President Rhee urges the people of Korea to trust our military without being unsettled in the least, to carry on with their daily work and support military operations. Attention, please, attention.”

His call echoed against the bulky profile of a Western-style house, where Inja, nearly four years old, lived with her maternal uncle, aunt, grandparents, as well ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

I recommend this book to anyone who loves language, powerful storytelling, and well-developed characters...Hopefully novels such as these will spur people to think more deeply about the individuals we read about in the news, especially those too young to influence their own future.   (Reviewed by BookBrowse First Impression Reviewers).

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Media Reviews

The Washington Post
Beautifully illuminate[s] Korea's past in ways that inform our present...Kim infuses a coming-of-age story about being an outsider with the realities of the war, which forced many family separations, some of which still persist today.

Southern Living, "Fall 2018 Book Releases We're Excited to Read"
Two sisters separated by a war and an ocean are at the center of this new novel by Eugenia Kim. In it, one daughter is left behind in South Korea while her family takes her sister to the United States in hopes of building a new life.

Publishers Weekly
This is a stirring novel about family and the sacrifices made to keep it whole.

Kirkus Reviews
Though the novel is quiet and occasionally dense with historical exposition, it offers a valuable window into Korean history as well as to issues like immigration and assimilation that couldn't be more relevant today.

Booklist
Starred Review. [A] heartfelt story, one which will greatly appeal to readers who enjoy the multicultural novels of Lisa See and Amy Tan, stories that enlighten as well as entertain.

Author Blurb Min Jin Lee, author of Pachinko and Free Food for Millionaires
Eugenia Kim's The Kinship of Secrets is a beautiful allegory of loss and recovery. Through the parallel growth of two separated sisters, Kim bears witness to the fall and rise of a nation and its resilient and generous people. The Kinship of Secrets is a gorgeous achievement.

Author Blurb Krys Lee, author of How I Became a North Korean
I felt as though I had stepped into a graceful story of two countries, South Korea and America, and family ties that survive the challenges of history.

Author Blurb Jung Yun, author of Shelter
What an extraordinary time to read this heartfelt novel about the bonds of family, set against the backdrop of the Korean War. Eugenia Kim is a masterful storyteller who makes her characters come to life as she spans decades, continents, and cultures.

Author Blurb Yoojin Grace Wuertz, author of Everything Belongs to Us
The Korean War has been called 'the forgotten war' in the West, but Kim's second novel, a powerful narrative about the ways families relentlessly love and protect each other despite immense challenges, is a story that demands to be remembered, along with its history. The Kinship of Secrets is both a meditation on homesickness and celebration of homecoming that made me appreciate the complicated bonds between sisters, between mothers and daughters, and love for relatives that become surrogate parents. A beautiful novel, and a necessary, important story for our times.

Author Blurb Marie Myung-Ok Lee, author of Somebody's Daughter
A gripping story of war and immigration, as well as a tender meditation on what it means to be of a family and of a country.

Reader Reviews

Betty T. (Warner Robins, GA)

The Power of Sisters
This beautifully written book is the story of two sisters, only ten months apart in age, separated as toddlers. In 1948 daughter Inja is left in South Korea with her Uncle and Aunt and her grandparents, as her parents Calvin and Najin Cho, along with...   Read More

Joanne W. (Ossining, NY)

Family love
Sweeping story of family love, secrets and survival. This would be a great book for book clubs with so many themes to discuss. It's a story of sisters who are unknown to each other because of distance, language and culture. They are brought together ...   Read More

Elizabeth P. (Erlanger, KY)

A Fine Wine
Some books are like a rich dessert or a fine wine. They need to be savored slowly to be truly appreciated. The Kinship of Secrets is such a book. Eugenia Kim's characters are flawed and complex. They are brave in the face of war but fearful of family...   Read More

Kay K. (Oshkosh, WI)

A Kinship of Secrets by Eugenia Kim
Sometimes keeping secrets is the best way to love another person. In A Kinship of Secrets, Inja is left behind in Korea with her Grandmother and Uncle. Her parents take their other daughter, Miran with them to the United States. They mean to be away...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

The Korean War: A War with Many Names

Fighting in SeoulIn Eugenia Kim's novel The Kinship of Secrets sisters Inja and Miran are separated by the military action known in Western countries as the Korean War. Officially a "police action" – war was never declared – it is frequently referred to as "the Forgotten War" or the "Unknown War," as many Americans knew little about it due to government censorship of its coverage at the time. South Koreans generally refer to it as the six-two-five-war (yook-ee-oh junjeng) for the day and month in 1950 that the conflict began, while the North Koreans refer to it as the Fatherland Liberation War. China, which also became involved in the hostilities, officially calls it the War to Resist America and Aid Korea.

The Korean Peninsula was part of ...

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