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The Kinship of Secrets by Eugenia Kim
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The Kinship of Secrets

by Eugenia Kim

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This beautifully written book is the story of two sisters, only ten months apart in age, separated as toddlers. In 1948 daughter Inja is left in South Korea with her Uncle and Aunt and her grandparents, as her parents Calvin and Najin Cho, along with daughter Miran, move to the United States in search of better opportunities for their family. Their plan to return for Inja is crushed by the outbreak of the Korean War. Thus, Miran grows up under the shadow of a sister she barely remembers, while Inja receives “care packages” from a family she knows little about.

Told through alternating perspectives of the sisters, the story takes the family from 1950 to 1973, thus allowing the reader to observe the growth of Miran and Inja, the impact of the separation on the sisters, and the hardships experienced by the family in South Korea. We also read of the efforts of the Korean community in the United States to ease the burdens of their loved ones in South Korea. While most of the story focuses on the sisters, Ms. Kim also writes of the mother’s efforts to acclimate to her new home and the guilt she feels over leaving a daughter behind. In the Author’s Note I learned that this story was inspired by the author’s life.

The contrast between Inya’s and Miran’s lives was heart-breaking. One sister had so much, the other struggled. One knew immense love, the other lacked emotional support. Subtle differences between belonging and not belonging – having a mother but not having a mother, having a daughter but not having a daughter, being Korean yet not being Korean. My favorite “take-away” from Ms. Kim’s book is the phrase “the charity of secrets”. What a beautiful phrase!

I felt the pace was appropriate for a story that covers this range of years taking the sisters from their toddler years to their mid-20’s. It was interesting observing the development of their personalities, each reflecting a blend of their culture and their environment. Also as the sisters mature, family secrets are revealed. I loved reading about the beauty of the Korean culture and its emphasis on family. I also learned a bit about the Korean War and now understand why it is called “The Forgotten War”.

I enjoyed Ms. Kim’s writing so much I just ordered her previous book “The Calligrapher's Daughter”. She wrote of the difficulty of everyday life during the time of war, family ties, humor in the darkest of times, and the love between sisters.

Thank you to BookBrowse and the publisher for the advance review copy. All opinions are my own. ( )
  BettyTaylor56 | Nov 6, 2018 |
As tensions increase on the Korean peninsula, Miran and Inja’s parents decide to emigrate to the US. However, they leave Inja behind Korea with her grandparents. The parents tell their Korean family they will return the next year, but that year comes and goes and they are unable to return. Inja’s mother, Najin, sends packages home with presents for Inja inside not realizing how wildly inappropriate and confusing they are. When war breaks out in Korea, every one hopes it will be short. It isn’t, and privations suffered by the Korean people are incredible. Both sisters, living such disparate lives, begin to forget what the other even looks like.

This is a story from a perspective little seen in historical fiction, i.e., told from the perspective of each of the sisters, it doesn’t take long for the reader to begin wondering how each will cope should the parents be able to reunite their family. This is an emotional read without being maudlin or overly dramatic.

The author’s writing is fluid and the story well told. There are parts of the book that are hard to read, but are, nevertheless, fulfilling because the reader is invested in the what happens to the sisters. ( )
  OldFriend | Nov 2, 2018 |
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For Sun Kim
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On a chilly summer night, the newsmonger trudged uphill to a residential enclave of Seoul, the last neighborhood on his route.
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Eugenia Kim is a LibraryThing Author, an author who lists their personal library on LibraryThing.

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Eugenia Kim chatted with LibraryThing members from Nov 23, 2009 to Dec 6, 2009. Read the chat.

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