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The Voices of Heaven

3.69  ·  Rating Details ·  98 Ratings  ·  35 Reviews
A Tale of One Family's Varied and Imperfect Manifestations of Love During the Throes of the Korean War and Its Aftermath The latest from Korean-American author Maija Rhee Devine, "The Voices of Heaven" is a rare gem in English-language literature about Korea, a story that takes us deep into the devotion and secrets of a family living in Seoul at the cusp of the Korean War. ...more
Paperback, 305 pages
Published May 15th 2013 by Seoul Selection (first published April 1st 2013)
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Christine N. Gordon
May 18, 2014 Christine N. Gordon rated it it was amazing
Adding my voice to "The Voices of Heaven”

Something remarkable and poetic happens when Devine transcribes her Korean childhood into a fictional world in English. Beyond the exquisite beauty of her storytelling live the voices of another place and time that will stay with me much the way Pearl Buck’s work has lingered with me for so many years.

With deftness, Devine shifts point of view between mother, father, child and second wife, mirroring the complexity and dimension of their relationships dur
J.A.V. Simson
Dec 16, 2015 J.A.V. Simson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This heart-rending tale of a woman and her adopted daughter takes place in South Korea before and during the devastating Korean war. The book explores the themes of Korean women: both the helplessness that they feel in a culture where males have primary value, as well as the strength they must exhibit in face of such injustice and the disruption of culture and family brought about by the Korean war. It should be an eye-opener for those who do not know Korean history or culture.
Delta Willis
Aug 02, 2014 Delta Willis rated it really liked it
I met author Maija Devine at a writer's workshop on Lake Como, Italy, where she did a reading from this autobiographical rendering of Korea as a young girl. She was both hilarious and thoughtful, as is the book. Details, color and smells arise, as does love when you least expect it. A revealing glimpse of this world apart, where the birth of a female baby meant not celebration, but that the husband could invite a live-in mistress in hopes of producing a male.
Julie Fischer
Living under the laws of Confucianism was a subject new for me. Maija R. Devine's book "The Voices of Heaven" told of the fear and sacrifice families must live under until their obligations to produce a male heir were met. I found it difficult to follow this book's plot due to the language. Usually I can pick up a book and read it without putting it down often. Staying interested in this book was not easy. Information that was gathered from this story caused me to finish reading it.
Sandi Widner
Jun 01, 2013 Sandi Widner rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A five star review for "The Voices of Heaven" by Maija Rhee Devine. You will want to read this book!
Jan 02, 2014 Jen rated it it was amazing
Shelves: historic-fiction
The Voices of Heaven is the first book I've finished in this new year, and although I'm about a dozen reviews behind, I can not delay this one. It moves to the head of the line, and I must thank Johanna Ramos-Boyer for sending me such a lovely book.

This may be a long and wandering excuse for a review, so I will give a brief synopsis and mention that I found the book fascinating, touching, informative, and beautifully written.

My overview of the book:

The story begins right before North Korea inva
Jan 07, 2016 Maddie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir, read-harder
This book opened up a culture and a historical event of which I did not previously have much knowledge. It was a simultaneously wonderful and heart-wrenching story. Central to the book is how the Confucius principles and the importance of a male heir in the Korean culture pressured even the most liberal thinking people into situations that were not emotionally healthy.

Devine's skillful pen alternated between the perspectives of each major character every five pages or so which presented a well-r
Thomas Dodson
Jun 02, 2015 Thomas Dodson rated it it was amazing
This book, mostly set in prewar South Korea, opens a window to a culture that most of the Western World does not know about. Fascinating insights into the Asian mind and the way a female child was treated compared to a boy. The first wife fails to produce a boy and a second wife is taken into the house. Guilt, turmoil, an adopted daughter, a mother determined to see that she becomes someone special. Very ethnic and authentic. Rich in images from that time period.
Jul 26, 2013 Nikki rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“The Voices of Heaven” is Maija Rhee Devine’s new historical fiction about one family’s life during the Korean War. The novel focuses around Gui-yong and Eum-chun’s decision to bring a mistress into their household, all in the hopes of finally adding a son and heir to their family. This decision ends up affecting not only their marriage, but also their daughter and their experiences and decisions for the rest of their lives.

Gui-yong loves his wife, something rarely found in a culture where groom
Jan 31, 2014 Melissa rated it it was ok

A story of tradition, families and sacrifice, The Voices of Heaven by Maija Rhee Devine, was unlike any book I have ever read.

Unable to produce a male heir, Eum-chun and her husband, Gui-yong, must welcome a "seed bearer" into their family in order to secure the continuation of their family through a son. Conflicted and hurt by this necessity, we learn through alternating narratives, the internal feelings of all three participants, including seed bearer, S
Melissa Fry Beasley
The Voices of Heaven by Maija Rhee Devine was a great book. It was beautifully written taking you directly into the minds and hearts of each of the characters, allowing you to really see and feel their roles and struggles within the story. Instead of having the usual good guy vs. bad guy scenario, you were enabled to simply appreciate the humanity of each person. (whether young or old) The story itself was quite moving, though so hard (emotionally), to read in several spots. It is one of those ...more
Sep 16, 2013 JoBeth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My colleague jiyoon Lee loaned me this book, saying she felt like it was more historically accurate or grounded than some of the pop-south Korean literature (one i had recently read). Voices of Heaven is a complex emotional story told from the well-developed perspectives of a first wife, second wife (because the fist wife did not bear a son), husband, and daughter. The strict gender traditions and expectations are overwhelming, as other other prejudices (including one against adoption). I was ...more
Brittany Tedder
Aug 18, 2013 Brittany Tedder rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I won this book in a Goodreads Giveaway and it was a beautifully written story. The Voices of Heaven takes place in Korea during the Japanese Occupation and it's about Gui-yong, Eum-chan and their adopted daughter. Gui-yong decides to take a mistress who bears him a son and an heir. This decision affects the entire family and after the Korean War, the family falls apart and their adopted daughter Mi-Na helps patch the family back together. I didn't know much about this era in Korean history or ...more
Aug 14, 2013 Laura rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a very compeling memoir of a Korean woman growing up during and post the Korean War. It has the sometimes stilted writing of a first time author who could have used a bit more editing, but it was easy to read and she tells the story well. It is amazing that in such recent times, such traditional and patriarchical ways were still the norm. The insights are important and illuminate Korean culture and history.

Mary Bennett
Feb 19, 2014 Mary Bennett rated it really liked it
I won this book for our book group to read. It was interesting to learn about the South Korean Culture during the time period of the 50s. I didn't realize that families in such a recent time period would bring in another wife to bear a son if one wasn't produced by the first wife. It was interesting learning more about another culture. The story was nicely told through the delivery provided from each main character's perspective.
Mar 06, 2014 Liz rated it really liked it
This is a novel based on the author's life story - it is the telling of the love story of her parents. More than that, it is a glimpse into the impact of the Korean War, an understanding of Korean culture, and the impact on families and people. This is a book that will certainly open your mind and your eyes to things you hadn't considered before.
Apr 04, 2014 Jean rated it it was amazing
A remarkable story and an amazing woman whom I had the good fortune of meeting. Her publishers, she said, were more interested in the story of a man living with two women, and much less interested in the little girl, which I was sorry to hear. She is truly a remarkable, and very interesting woman.
Jul 12, 2013 Becky rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
Its written that from the point of view mostly from Eum-chun(Mi-Na's mom), Mi-Na, Soo-yang(mistress). I like how shows the relationship between the wife and the mistress. Pretty easy to read. This book takes place during the Korean War, which I don't know much about. So it's interesting to read about that time period. It's written very well, and I want to find out what happens next.
Jul 05, 2013 Kelly rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013, first-reads
I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway. I found the topic interesting, but did not love the writing style. Other books I have read in this genre have been more lyrical. The tone of this book was more coarse, but that may just be the culture. I don't regret reading it, but probably wouldn't recommend it to others. I did enjoy the parts of the book in Mi-na's point of view.
Nov 03, 2013 Nancie rated it really liked it
A well written memoir, set before, during, and after the Korean war, providing interesting insights into the importance of a male heirs, adoption, and the importance of education in Korean society. A well written story, which I recommend to anyone who is interested in Korea and its society.
Aug 28, 2013 Alisa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I truly felt the love and passion of the couple in The Voices of Heaven. The author truly moves the reader and introduced me to a culture and time period that I was not familiar with I truly loved this book that I got from GoodRead's First Reads!!! It's now one of my favorite books!
Aug 03, 2013 Sharon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was an interesting and tender book. I loved the way the author put me inside the mind of her characters, letting me feel the anguish of the situation. It was interesting to learn of the culture of the Korean people. I enjoyed the book, but felt too much time passed during the last chapters.
I won this book free through goodreads first reads. I put three stars because I was not a fan of the topic and it was not a book I would read again. In all fairness to the author and others if you like the topic and find it interesting you may rate this higher.
Sep 09, 2015 Manda rated it really liked it
Loved all the little details of life in twentieth century Korea. Narrative-wise, I thought Soo-Yang remained too much of an enigma; it would've been nice to have gotten to "know" her as well as the other characters whose POVs make up the book.
May 18, 2015 Lisa added it
This novel was a novel that I really enjoyed reading. The story was told in multiple perspectives and I got to know more about the characters. I would like to recommend this novel to my friends and people who like novels about a Korean family.
Jul 19, 2014 Karen rated it liked it
Tale of a woman happily married unable to bear her husband a son. Husband reluctantly takes a second wife and the misery they all experience is emblematic of the oppressive cultural atmosphere in Korea in the 1950s. Story is told from the perspective of four main characters.
Aug 21, 2013 Erin rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway. The Voices of Heaven is based on the marriage of Eum-chun and Gui-yong's decision to bring a mistress into the home when they fail to bare a son. I just couldn't connect to the characters and kept putting the book down.
Aug 07, 2013 Cindelu rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
a beautiful story, well written and interesting to me because of the unusual story content and history.
Aug 28, 2015 Sue added it
Shelves: waldo-bc
Follow a family, living in Soul, before, during and after the Korean War. Conflicts over North and South Korea along with religion are interwoven into this novel through the eyes of the characters.
Joanie Harrison
Aug 10, 2013 Joanie Harrison rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was hooked from the first moment. What a fantastic look into the 1940's Korean culture. It was happy, heartbreaking and left me wanting for more.
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Maija Rhee Devine, an award-winning Korean-born writer and Korean War survivor, writes from her experience of growing up in Korea and living through the war in her novel, The Voices of Heaven (Seoul Selection USA, Irvine, CA) The link to her TEDx Talk of 2/22/14 about the novel and what it reveals about current S. Korea is:

The novel won the following awards:
1) Winner:
More about Maija Rhee Devine...

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