By Min Jin Lee
Hachette Audio. Unabridged, 18 ¼ hours
Min Jin Lee’s second novel is a culturally rich, psychologically astute family saga. It begins in Korea in 1910, the year of Japanese annexation, and ends four generations later in Japan. Sunja is the only child of a Korean fisherman and his wife, who keeps a small boarding house. Hardworking and innocent, Sunja becomes pregnant at 16 by Hansu, a married businessman. She is saved from disgrace by a young Korean Presbyterian minister who marries her out of goodness. The couple immigrate to Japan, where Koreans are a despised underclass, and the story expands to follow Sunja and her husband, their children and others, including the Godfather-like Hansu, who operates behind the scenes with an eye on his natural son. Allison Hiroto reads this moving novel in a sweet, compassionate voice. Without changing register for male characters, she has a storyteller’s gift of distinguishing between speakers through modulations of tone and disposition. Further, her voice has great emotional range, capturing the fluctuations of joy, sorrow, anger, shame and hope in the hearts of these people as they wrestle with notions of home and the corrosive effects of bigotry.
Katherine A. Powers reviews audiobooks every month for The Washington Post.