By Claire Allfree
This new novel from the Korean-American Min Jin Lee is set mainly in Japan — but, through four generations of a family, it beautifully examines the little-explored hardships often suffered by Korean exiles in Japan following that country’s occupation of Korea and the seismic upheavals of World War II.
Sunja, the unexceptional daughter of Korean peasants, is the main constant: her love affair with the criminal father of her first son, her marriage to a Korean Christian and her relationship with her new family and her two very different sons are the threads that run through this expansive, elegant and utterly absorbing book.
Each new generation is determined to better itself, yet each is snagged anew by the existential no man’s land of life in an adopted, hostile country.
Combining the detail of a documentary with the empathy of the best fiction, it’s a sheer delight.
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