Long for this World

“How can you live or experience a moment in its full present knowing that it will only diminish as soon as it has passed? It’s like the new car that loses value the minute you drive it off the lot. What’s strange is that I can’t even say for sure whether I was all there even at the time, or if I was already telescoping into the future, or maybe the past, or perhaps even an alternative present.”

I often hesitate to pick up contemporary fiction. The hype is one thing. And that’s a big thing. The other is that the daring and inventiveness often seem too much for me, and I look to read something less noisy, less adventurous. But this debut novel (I had to double check that, because wow, what a debut) is such a beauty. It is a many-layered novel about a Korean family: Han Hyun-ku returns to Korea after 40 years, landing up at his brother’s doorstep. His daughter, Jane, a photojournalist who narrowly escaped death in Baghdad, follows him to Korea, leaving behind her self-centred mother and vulnerable brother. The Korean household itself is not without its issues either.

One of the things I really liked about this book was that while its characters are Korean, they are people first, they are brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers, sons and daughters. The narrative is complex, exploring the stories of the different characters. And despite the heavy issues that it touches on, it is very readable, graceful and quite beautiful. It’s been a while since I’ve read a book that I keep needing to put down, to pace myself with, to better appreciate. Chung has such a refreshing voice, and a great way with language and  characters. What a read!

Long For This World by Sonya Chung
Borrowed from the library


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