Renee 's Reviews > Drifting House

Drifting House by Krys  Lee
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's review
Feb 08, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: first-reads
Read from January 31 to February 06, 2012

** Drifting House by Krys Lee was provided to me free-of-charge by Penguin Canada through a GoodReads, FirstReads Giveaway. **

Drifting House by Krys Lee consists of a collection of short stories depicting the lives and experiences of a diverse group of Korean nationals spanning the post-Korean war era to present day. The stories each tell the tale of how the history of turmoil in Korea has affected generations of individuals and families as they struggle to cope with the fall-out and to rebuild their shattered lives.

The reader is led through a roller coaster of emotions as we peek through the window of the immigrant’s bleak existence in the United States; as we bear witness to unspeakable horror as children set out to seek their mother in neighbouring China; as we follow the descent of a respectable assistant manager in a large company into a shameful life of destitution and poverty; as we experience the violence of Seoul bred deep into the psyche of those who lived through the Korean war.

I almost need to discuss this book as eight of the stories and then discuss The Believer separately.

All stories considered (minus the Believer), I really enjoyed this book. It is beautifully haunting as Lee weaves stories that are filled with pain and suffering. I have not read much about the Korean culture nor the fallout from the IMF financial crisis in Asia/Korea in 1997 and the Korean war (other than watching M*A*S*H – which isn’t really a very good depiction of the war, is it?). So, on that level, I did get a bit of a history lesson and a vivid description of the suffering experienced by the Korean people.

Lee does a fantastic job of weaving in the themes of shame, immigration, gender roles, women’s invisibility, and cultural violence. Her writing style effectively draws you in to the extent that you feel a great deal of compassion for the characters in the stories. While each of the stories may focus on different individuals, relationships, and settings they are all grounded in the collective history of those who experienced post-war Korea. Further, Lee deepens our understanding of how there is an inter-generational transmission of the trauma experienced by these individuals and families. All this was beautifully done.

I could have done with the story The Believer which covers a taboo subject - (view spoiler). That particular story left such a strong distaste in my mouth that it really affected my enjoyment of the book. I can read a book about people’s suffering. I can even read a book about taboo subjects. That being said, I did feel like that story was either out-of-place or unnecessary for what the author was trying to accomplish. I did not see that coming and was unprepared for how this story progressed.

I took a few days between finishing the book and writing this review because I wanted my reaction to The Believer to dissipate so I could give the book as a whole a more objective review. I’m glad I did, because Lee is a very good writer and the stories are so beautifully written. Overall, I did like the book.

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Reading Progress

01/31/2012 page 20
9.0% "I'm intrigued"
02/02/2012 page 40
18.0% "This is very different from anything I've read - different culture - Korean. It's quite good"
02/04/2012 page 149
67.0% "This is a very touching book."

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