... a perfect slice of Koreana; a touching, somewhat depressive narrative full of nostalgia that shows the underbelly of a nation through the life of characters inhabiting society's bottom rung ... suffused with a subdued sense of nihilism that comes from being poor and having no viable options ... Sok-yong brilliantly shows the ennui young South Koreans are forced into by the system ... a superb look at South Korea filtered through a variety of lenses ... By offering such an array of narratives and framing them within the politics and culture of Korea, Sok-yong proves once again that fiction can be the best way to tell devastating truths.
A regretful, bittersweet exploration of modernisation, which picks away at the country’s past and present, slowly becoming a moving reflection of what we gain and lose as individuals and a society in the name of progress ... Sora Kim-Russell’s translation becomes a real virtue as the build-up of anecdotes and memories from Minwoo’s past gradually layer into a powerful yet modest and profound meditation on personal responsibility and what a fulfilled life might mean ... never trips over into nostalgia or sentimentality ... [Sok-yong's] writing is laced with the hard-won wisdom of a man with plenty left to say.
Points of view alternate in Hwang’s brilliantly executed novella nesting story within story—each with the perfect amount of exposition topped with vivid specificity ... Hwang gives voice to the powerless. (In a stunning scene that must have scarred Black Shirt forever, a teenager protests his family’s forced eviction by charging headfirst into the still-swinging metal arms of an excavator that has come to demolish their home.) ... When the clicking into place of disparate narratives finally occurs—which it does all the more satisfyingly for being very late, the unassuming 29-year-old is exposed as the true agent of this novella. Even if she has to resort to catfishing Park, she is determined to play out Cha’s unfinished love story. By so doing, she materializes an audience for only one of the many neglected voices that have been swept under the rug of history.