Korean American Books

Summaries and reviews of fiction and nonfiction books by Korean American authors,
books about Korean Americans and Korea, and Korean literature in English translation,
including some academic works and a sampling on the Korean War

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Shelter by Jung Yun

This acclaimed debut novel deserves all the great attention and accolades it's received. Both a turn-the-page thriller and a literary investigation of a family's survival from trauma, both recent and decades old, the writing elevates the story into deeper understandings of the nuances in family relationships and how they seep into every act of living. It is a refreshing change that Kyung's Korean-ness is not the central focus of the story, and his being Korean is only incidentally part of the narrative, an essential part of his identity, yes, but not the main focus. Yun also manages to make an unlikeable protagonist sympathetic, which is difficult to do, and at times uncomfortable to read. I found myself rooting for him to step up and overcome his history, but of course, he couldn't, just as all the others in the novel cannot deny how they were shaped because of their familial histories. Because the story is a thriller, I'm loath to reveal how the novel progresses, but it's a high recommendation that will keep you stuck to it until the last page is turned. 

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