Dec 24, 2011

This Burns My Heart, by Samuel Park

This is the type of book that makes me want to rip the pages just as fast as I'm turning them. For me, that means it's really, really good. The narrative follows Soo-Ja Choi, a young woman in post-war South Korea who wants to become a diplomat. Her struggle, throughout the book, mimics what I would guess was the struggle of the entire country: how to honor their past and heritage while looking ahead to a vastly changed future. Soo-Ja marries into a family we would consider to be horrific and loveless, but which probably echoes the way of many families from that time and before. She fights against the stringent parochialism all while desperately wanting to bring honor to her family, both the one she was born into and the one into which she married.

There are two strings that pull Soo-Ja through her hateful life: her daughter, Hana, and the man she loves but did not marry, Yul. At every turn, Soo-Ja is confronted with the two-fold morality of post-war Koreans. I wanted to scream at her horrendous father-in-law for her, to argue on her behalf with her deadbeat husband. And this is how I know Park is an incredible writer; he is able to draw you so completely into the story of this woman that you can't shake yourself free even if you wanted to, and hope desperately that just one thing in this woman's life will go right. I read this book in two days, I think most people reading this will gobble it up just as quickly,.

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