An debut novel about war, family, and forbidden love—the saga of two ill-fated lovers in Korea and the heartbreaking choices they’re forced to make in the years surrounding the civil war that still haunts us today.
...a bold mashup of wartime novel and love-triangle romance ... Kim charts personal and national turmoil with equal interest, offering exquisite scenes of marital discord as adeptly as the inner workings of a refugee village or field hospital ... The story urges its readers to sympathize by making Jisoo unworthy of Haemi although the complexity of these relationships could thrive without leaning on objective flaws ... Sorrows compile at an increasing pace as the novel closes, but its finest moments are in its everyday troubles in a landscape wracked by war.
In alternating first-person chapters, Ms. Kim chronicles her characters’ discontent. Haemi tries to settle into her marriage and find consolation in her four daughters, but her family acts as a living reminder of her distance from Kyunghwan and, as Jisoo puts it, 'If the smallest thread in her happiness loosened, she followed it without reason.' Kyunghwan becomes an eternal bachelor, living only for the few tortured and short-lived reunions Haemi allows him. Late in the novel, Jisoo springs for a beach vacation in Busan, but the return to the place of Haemi’s decision to marry him triggers a psychological collapse that shoves the story to its painful ending. Ms. Kim possesses a pleasingly clear and fluid style of writing, and in the opening chapters she deftly intertwines personal and political conflicts ... Like its characters, this sensitive but rather grueling novel becomes trapped inside a moment in the past, fated to relive the same mistake to the exclusion of anything else.