Review: Drifting House

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Drifting HouseDrifting House by Krys Lee
Published by Viking Adult on February 2, 2012
Genres: Short Stories
Pages: 224
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher

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.

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.

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