RaveLos Angeles Review of BooksLord draws upon the familiar fabric of mythic and religious symbolism to weave a winding yarn about redemption and its demands upon the individual who bravely commits to connect the dots of an uncomfortable truth. However, in the novel, as in life, spotting the signs is neither easy nor straightforward ... In this world of myth and symbolism, Lord frolics around like a demigod, siphoning off pieces of public dream, playfully blending and decanting before reinserting her dabblings into a story that feels, at times, like both crime fiction and fireside fable ... Lord crafts an engaging parable of agency and redemption with a resonance of Augustinian allegory ... The novel is bold and grand in scope, while at the same time firmly embedded in the redemptive journey of the individual. For all its ambition, it is surprisingly successful ... It is critique and sorcery, sweeping and personal. It’s pure Caribbean magic.
RaveThe Los Angeles Review of BooksHwang mounts a pointed critique of the economic and political paradigms of the [Korean] peninsula ... For a reader less familiar with the political history of the region, Hwang’s critiques are doubly illuminating. They bring into focus many of the systemic ills that plague South Korea, which have long been overshadowed by the more blatant and gloomy realities to the north. Rather than depicting a glittering utopia nestled next to a barren nightmare, as the contrast is often portrayed in the West, Hwang fleshes out a much more honest and uncomfortable vision of the dispersion of tyranny throughout the peninsula ... Its stark treatment of alienation and subjugation makes the book compelling reading, even if its precise genre is unclear. On the one hand, Flower Island really was a major municipal landfill on the edge of Seoul ... On the other hand, the presence of the dokkaebi [spirits] and the overall picaresque tone lend an air of surreality to an otherwise grittily realistic tale ... Familiar Things is a cautionary tale, both a mirror and a portent for our own world. Yet, though it is a tragic tale, it is also a defiantly optimistic one ... the inhabitants of Flower Island live one day at a time, adapting, helping one another, and finding those familiar things that make life worth living—in short: building a new world out of the rotten husks of the old.