In the wake of a personal tragedy, a novelist goes back home in the Korean countryside to take care of her gentle father and learns, through the testimonies of his family and friends, how his lifelong kindness belies a past wrought in both private and national trauma.
Shin’s newest book is steeped in an almost unvarying tone of sadness and grief. At times, the movements back and forth from past to present are jarring, and Honnie’s spiraling narration can occasionally challenge a reader’s patience with meandering, elliptical thoughts ... Those who can power through such moments will eventually be rewarded with quiet, tender exchanges between father and daughter, though readers seeking a brisk page turner should note that this is a slow and deeply interior novel, dense with memories that range from meaningful to mundane.
On one level, this novel is a recent history of South Korea ... On another level, it’s an almost banal account of a minor life ... But behind this facade of Father’s are complexity, suffering, deception, generosity, and striving ... Shin, whose work has previously considered roots, rural life, literature, and generational shifts, mines not unfamiliar territory but uses a wider perspective here, considering Father from multiple directions ... It’s a gentle yet piercing technique, with family dynamics unearthed affectingly.