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The Kinship of Secrets

by Eugenia Kim

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11211202,942 (4.08)4
In 1948 Najin and Calvin Cho, with their young daughter Miran, travel from South Korea to the United States in search of new opportunities. Wary of the challenges they know will face them, Najin and Calvin make the difficult decision to leave their other daughter, Inja, behind with their extended family; soon, they hope, they will return to her. But then war breaks out in Korea, and there is no end in sight to the separation. Miran grows up in prosperous American suburbia, under the shadow of the daughter left behind, as Inja grapples in her war-torn land with ties to a family she doesn't remember. Najin and Calvin desperately seek a reunion with Inja, but are the bonds of love strong enough to reconnect their family over distance, time, and war? And as deep family secrets are revealed, will everything they long for be upended? Told through the alternating perspectives of the distanced sisters, and inspired by a true story, The Kinship of Secrets explores the cruelty of war, the power of hope, and what it means to be a sister.… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
Book club for Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. Lots to talk about, and the intertwined stories of two Korean sisters growing up in separate countries, separated for years by the outbreak of war and strict immigration laws — illuminated much of the history of the US and Korea in the ‘50s and ‘60s. ( )
  baystateRA | May 18, 2022 |
3.5 stars ( )
  CharlotteBurt | Feb 1, 2021 |
In 1950, four year old Inja is living with her grandparents and uncle in Seoul, while her slightly-older sister Miran is in America with their parents. The family’s intended return to Korea has already been delayed; the outbreak of war forces them to change their plans and delays their reunion with Inja even further.

This is a fascinating portrayal of two sisters growing up in different countries, and an incredibly poignant story about a family separated (inspired by the experience of one of the author’s older sisters, who was left with relatives in Korea when their family went to the US!). It’s compelling, and beautifully written, and despite moments of intense grief, hopeful. I liked how, in the end, Inja and Miran didn’t have all the answers -- some things are still a work in progress.

But I wonder if I would have found the ending more satisfying if I had a deeper understanding of who they both were as adults. Maybe if the book hadn’t glossed as much over their experiences at university. While that period of their lives was less relevant in terms of the themes of this novel, it’s a critical time in a person’s development.

(I have just discovered that Kim’s first novel, The Calligrapher’s Daughter, is about Inja and Miran’s mother. Hmm. I wonder if reading that would change one’s perspective on this novel?)

Her sister’s effortlessness with her appearance and body both awed her and made her envy her perfection, as well as her growing ease with language, boys, grownups Korean or American, and her easy acceptance of being different from everyone else in school, in the entire neighbourhood, and probably the entire city of Washington, DC. Maybe it was because she was so different, that she never knew she needed to fit in. For Miran, that yearning was nearly unbearable, unattainable as it was. There were too many hurdles: not only was she Oriental and her hair wouldn’t curl; she was skinny with oily skin that she battled with Sea Breeze, and she made her own clothes -- the final nail on the coffin of forever unpopular. She roamed the worn linoleum of Blair High School’s hallways, hugged her textbooks to her cleavage-less chest, and kept her eyes down -- a loser in every sense, and one who fit best into the books she read. ( )
  Herenya | Jan 17, 2021 |
This novel tells a story that is loosely based on the author's, her parents', and her siblings' lives--very loosely, because she changed the time period, the number of children, etc. But that is fine, this is fiction, and that is where she got the idea. The story is about family, immigration, and the many layers of secrets within one family.

Najin and Calvin leave Korean for America in 1948. They choose to take one daughter (Miran) but leave the other (Inja) with Najin's brother in Korea. They hope to either be back or send for her in a few years. But then the Korean War starts--there is no going back or sending for Inja, there is only hoping. Then after the war ticket prices are unaffordable and Calvin's job makes him question the safety of him returning at all.

The real story here, is the several reasons why Miran was taken and Inja left. Inja knows some, Miran knows a lie, and Najin doesn't know Inja knows. Najin has no idea about the secrets her brother has shared with Inja--and they are safe with her, as her uncle is, truly, her first father.

This book was fine, the narration fine (I have no idea how accurate the accents may be, but they did help me easily tell the characters apart). I don't know if I will remember this book in a year, however. ( )
  Dreesie | Dec 9, 2020 |
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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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In 1948 Najin and Calvin Cho, with their young daughter Miran, travel from South Korea to the United States in search of new opportunities. Wary of the challenges they know will face them, Najin and Calvin make the difficult decision to leave their other daughter, Inja, behind with their extended family; soon, they hope, they will return to her. But then war breaks out in Korea, and there is no end in sight to the separation. Miran grows up in prosperous American suburbia, under the shadow of the daughter left behind, as Inja grapples in her war-torn land with ties to a family she doesn't remember. Najin and Calvin desperately seek a reunion with Inja, but are the bonds of love strong enough to reconnect their family over distance, time, and war? And as deep family secrets are revealed, will everything they long for be upended? Told through the alternating perspectives of the distanced sisters, and inspired by a true story, The Kinship of Secrets explores the cruelty of war, the power of hope, and what it means to be a sister.

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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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