Monday, February 20, 2012
Author: Krys Lee
Genre: Fiction; Short Stories
Publisher: Viking (Penguin)
Pub. Date: February 2, 2012
Drifting House is made up of nine short stories about Korean families dealing with loss and the separation of their families. They were all heart breaking in different ways but were true to the dynamics of all families across the board.
My favorite story, though it was so sorrowful, was actually the title story, Drifting House. Two boys and their young sister are abandoned by their mother who defects to China from North Korea. The siblings take off on their own to escape and find their mother. But it's a difficult and scary journey and the children are forced to make some horrible, awful decisions in order to catch up to their mother. Their decisions haunt them as they try to finish an already terrifying journey. As they often do, stories about children dealing with such adult issues tears at my heart, so even though this story was so sad, I felt so much for the children and wanted to protect them. And imagine the initial horror of being abandoned by their mother in such a way!
A few of the stories told about families who were separated between Korea and the U.S. In A Temporary Marriage, a woman saves up money to move to the U.S. and find her daughter who has been taken there by her father. In The Goose Father, a man learns to live alone while his family lives overseas, and he takes in a young boy for a roommate who brings with him a goose. The Salaryman is told in second person narrative and is about a man who becomes homeless after losing his job, leaving him separated from his family. Other families are separated because of death or, in one case, a mother who is institutionalized.
The stories were all well written, BUT I didn't always *get* them. It's sort of a common affliction for me when it comes to literary short stories. But I think that anyone who enjoys short stories and stories about other cultures will enjoy this one. The Korean culture was reflected subtly throughout the various stories; things like respecting those who are older than you, older siblings, etc; the different titles to refer to older siblings; the pridefulness in some of the men; the situations the characters were dealt. All that being said, if you've read my blog for a while you may know that I DO NOT LIKE stories involving incest. That is the one thing I tend to have extreme difficulty reading, so I was highly disappointed to find that in one story in Drifting House. It wasn't as unnecessary as I thought in other books... if I wanted to think about it I guess I could see the point of it in the story, but, ugh, I am just not a fan of that. I can say, though, that you shouldn't let that sway you if you are otherwise interested in reading these stories.
And if you are interested, you're in luck because the publisher is allowing me to do a giveaway for Drifting House! This is for the U.S. and Canada only. Just fill out the form below. I will choose and announce a winner on Saturday, February 3, 2012.