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Drifting House by Krys Lee

Drifting House

by Krys Lee

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Not a bad book to read, took a little to get into it. ( )
  askum | Jun 5, 2013 |
Drifting House consists of nine short stories. All of them focus on Koreans or Korean-Americans. The topics of each short story vary greatly, as do the time in which they're set (from the 1970s to roughly the present), but they do have one thing in common. They are all about desperation, of one sort or another. These characters all yearn to be themselves, but are stifled one way or another, broken from the past or tradition or duty.

All of these stories are really, really sad. The writing style is simple, unornamented, which really seems to force the reader to focus more on the content. The pain these people feel is not dressed up in fancy syntax or diction; it's laid out in front of you for you to experience as well.

Having a chance to learn about another culture, the side I don't learn about from kdramas, is certainly eye-opening. For example, the story "The Salaryman" tells about a man who loses his job at a corporation during a serious down time in the economy. The man sends his family away to stay with his wife's relatives until he can find a job. In the meantime, he is a bum, begging for change, sleeping outside, and going to the unemployment office everyday. What kind of world is this? It's terrifying how one a corporation will lay people off for a profit margin and this is how things can end up.

The story I liked best was At the Edge of the World. The main character of that one is an incredibly bright young boy. I like his voice and his clever thoughts. They remind me somewhat of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.

Check out my tags for this post: all of those are subjects of one or more of the stories. Do not come to this book for happiness, because you will not find it; this is a book that looks at the darkest parts of life unflinchingly. ( )
  A_Reader_of_Fictions | Apr 1, 2013 |
Melancholy in tone...deep and aching. Nine short stories that convey pain and loss...and longing--longing for freedom, for love, for reunification with family.

The writing is beautiful in several parts, and there are quirky turns from "reality" to a bit of magical realism. The "Goose Father" was my favorite as it was unapologetically bizarre and yet, moving.

As all the stories are sad and saddening, their brevity and being able to read a new short story provide a relief and a breather. ( )
  ming.l | Mar 31, 2013 |

"After a few minutes he reappeared from the kitchen with a low table heavy with rice, soybean paste soup, beef rubs marinated in honey and soy sauce, and pickled vegetables. There was her favorite banchan: beef-stuffed chili peppers and candied lotus flower roots. Men rarely entered the kitchen; the store-bought banchan arranged on small plates was his usual plea for forgiveness.

'I made dinner for you,' he said.

As she sat on the floor and ate his lie, he watched, delighted. He kissed her on the throat, the earlobe, the mouth, until she said, 'That's enough.'

He kneeled on the bamboo mat beside her. 'I'm a foolish, weak man.'

'I know.'

'I want to be the universe for you.'

She tapped the thin fuzz on his scalp with the fat end of the chopstick. 'That's impossible.'" (page 154-155, A Small Sorrow).

Lee's debut collection of short stories is a bit uneven, but remarkable nonetheless. Set in both Korea and America, her stories are at times tragic, at times haunting, and always richly tonal. Lee also seems to be one of the rare contemporary writers who trusts in the intelligence of her reader, in their ability to interpret and infer, which I absolutely appreciate.

A couple highlights...

A Small Sorrow: My personal favorite, and in my opinion, the strongest story in the collection, A Small Sorrow takes a peak inside the marriage of Eunkang and the monogamously-challenged Seongwon. LOVED the way Lee slowly and deliberately laid out each moment with such lyricism. If this is any indication of what Lee is capable of, I'm really excited to read more from her!

The Goose Father: a father, after sending his wife and children to America, takes on a tenant who believes that his pet goose is his mother reincarnated. I felt that the story itself was stronger than the way it was told, but the story itself was almost otherworldly and far made up for the telling.

Rubric rating: 7.5. Definitely looking forward to read her novel, How I Became a North Korean, which is coming out next year :) ( )
  jaclyn_michelle | Mar 11, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0670023256, Hardcover)

An unflinching portrayal of the Korean immigrant experience from an extraordinary new talent in fiction.

Spanning Korea and the United States, from the postwar era to contemporary times, Krys Lee's stunning fiction debut, Drifting House, illuminates a people torn between the traumas of their collective past and the indignities and sorrows of their present.

In the title story, children escaping famine in North Korea are forced to make unthinkable sacrifices to survive. The tales set in America reveal the immigrants' unmoored existence, playing out in cramped apartments and Koreatown strip malls. A makeshift family is fractured when a shaman from the old country moves in next door. An abandoned wife enters into a fake marriage in order to find her kidnapped daughter.

In the tradition of Chang-rae Lee's Native Speaker and Jhumpa Lahiri's Interpreter of Maladies, Drifting House is an unforgettable work by a gifted new writer.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:44 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Spanning Korea and the United States, from the postwar era to contemporary times, the stories presented in "Drifting House" illuminate a people torn between the traumas of their collective past and the indignities and sorrows of their present.

» see all 3 descriptions

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