Ellen's Reviews > Native Speaker

Native Speaker by Chang-rae Lee
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's review
Jun 05, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: fiction
Read in June, 2009

Keegan picked this up at a bookstore here in Korea. The author is a Korean-American, and this book is about one man's Korean-American experience. I really enjoyed the book's emphasis on language, and the author had some beautiful quotes about what it's like to speak in a foreign language - I should have marked them. I also enjoyed reading about the main character's memories of growing up in a traditional Korean family in America. In particular, he tells a story about a housekeeper who comes to live with him and his father after his mother's death. He and his father always call her "ah-jum-ma," which is a title for a married woman, and years later the main character's wife is shocked to discover that her husband doesn't know his housekeeper's name. I love how this story encapsulates the differences between Korean and American social networks, and shows up this difficulties in cross-cultural relationships. There are two intertwining narratives, one about the main character's relationship with his estranged American wife and another about his work spying on a Korean-American politician who is considering a run for mayor of New York. I enjoyed both but sometimes found it jarring to switch from one plotline to the other.

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