The story of Gwija, told by her novelist daughter Jina. When Gwija was 17 years old, her family married her in a hurry to a a man she didn't know. Japan fell, Korea gained its independence, and the couple started a family. But peace didn't come. The young family—now four—fled south. On the road, while breastfeeding and changing her daughter, Gwija was separated from her husband and son. Then 70 years passed—70 years of waiting. Gwija is now an elderly woman and Jina can't stop thinking about the promise she made to find her brother.
Vividly rendered ... The Waiting, is graphic novel as reclamation project, an attempt to preserve before it is too late not a documentary history so much as an emotional one ... There is an immediacy, an intimacy, that emerges from these panels, which reveal both memory and art-making as processes. Nothing is fixed, Gendry-Kim is suggesting. We know ourselves only from the bits of information we have been allowed to have.
Masterly ... I know that I brought some of my own stuff to this, an account – half fact, half fiction – of families separated by the Korean war, tears rolling down my face as I turned its inky pages. But I won’t compare my own experiences to those of its characters – they don’t even come close – and nor do I want to take anything away from her achievement in this book ... Keum takes the reader inside some of the human heart’s most inaccessible chambers, places that are all but closed to most visitors – and yet she does so almost casually, the stark economy of her drawings no guide at all to their lasting emotive power. What a talent she is ... The Waiting involves many miracles, not least its author’s brushwork, at once beautiful and forbidding. But chief among them is surely the fact that without her own mother’s tenacity and courage, it would not exist at all.
Gendry-Kim adopts a non-linear approach that's both radical and naturalistic, to illustrate what unfolds in her protagonist's daily life when her other life is put on hold. While fully acknowledging the plight of biological family members separated along the North-South border during the Korean War, The Waiting also celebrates the beauty of found-family bonds forged to mitigate the destructive forces of history ... By modulating the narrative sequence, the author also affirms the resilient — if sometimes unacknowledged — bond between Gwija and her independent younger daughter ... The Waiting vividly captures Gwija's chronic deprivation ... Both author and translator understand the power of images in the comics medium, how serious topics — the way both war and patriarchy result in endless exile of the vulnerable — can be made accessible to a wide audience and serve as effective instruments for change. And while words presumably take a secondary role to images in a graphic novel, their 'silence,' crafted by a perceptive translator in step with the artist's powerful visual representation, cuts deep.