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Drifting House

3.67  ·  Rating details ·  961 ratings  ·  183 reviews
An unflinching portrayal of the Korean immigrant experience from an extraordinary new talent in fiction.

Spanning Korea and the United States, from the postwar era to contemporary times, Krys Lee's stunning fiction debut, Drifting House, illuminates a people torn between the traumas of their collective past and the indignities and sorrows of their present.

In the title sto
Hardcover, 224 pages
Published February 2nd 2012 by Viking (first published January 1st 2012)
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Average rating 3.67  · 
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 ·  961 ratings  ·  183 reviews

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Nov 17, 2011 rated it really liked it
Much of what is categorized as "literary" is actually pretentious and annoying. Krys Lee's stories are neither. They were outside my comfort zone, but told with such straight-forwardness and luminosity that the book, once opened, was hard to put down.
The title story in particular came back to my thoughts again and again - two boys, abandoned by their mother, attempting to flee famine in North Korea to China.
I won this book through the firstreads program, and it's not the admittedly escapist fi
This collection of moving stories focusing on both Koreas (and on Koreans in America) blew me away from start to finish. The writing is exquisite, haunting, precise, surreal, magical, dark, funny. The stories are fully realized and, although often focusing on the darkest thoughts and actions, have heart and humanity at center. You care about what the characters will do and what will happen to them, even as you flinch because they are in such desperate circumstances. One of the best short story c ...more
Jason Lundberg
An astonishing collection, beautifully written, even as it describes incredible pain and sadness. Several of these stories broke my heart.
Nov 18, 2011 rated it liked it
There were many different characters introduced at different points in time...some were post-war, some modern Korean Americans, and although all of their identity stories were quite different, they are all presented with incredible difficulties and heartache. Several of these stories were very well written, but at the end when something "big" transpires it almost seems as the ending does not belong to the same narrative thread.

Character development is something Lee is very good at creating both
Feb 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing
The Drifting House – the debut collection of Krys Lee – contains many good stories and some truly exceptional ones. And like all short story compilations, readers are bound to gravitate to their own favorites.

For me, a few of them really sang. In the first, A Temporary Marriage, Mrs. Shin has been forced to endure an abusive relationship and enters a sham marriage with another Korean named Mr. Rhee. As a result of her divorce, she loses custody of her daughter, whom she is determined to see agai
Susie Spizzirro
Nov 30, 2011 rated it really liked it
Drifting house was a difficult book for me to read.I gave it 4 stars because the writer has done an excellent job putting the reader in the same room as her tortured souls.
As I said before it is terrible what these familes have suffered through. Yes, I know this book is fictional, but I also know what happens to families & esp. the little ones.
As I think of the little girl who turns away from her mother after her mother has given her all to fine her child. The husbamd who takes his child to v
Sharon L. Sherman
Nov 16, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: novel, race-issues
Krys Lee's portrayal of North Korean women and their children is an important read, especially in light of recent events surrounding Kim Jong-il's passing. Following several stories that alternate between different children's and parents' views of life in Korea versus the U.S., an "American" reader is invited to come to terms wiht the immigrant experience of war refugees and the longing for a place to belong.

Lee has published some of these short stories separately, but this collection proves in
Jan 31, 2018 rated it liked it
I can't decide if this is a 3 or 4 star book for me...there were stories I loved - Beautiful Women, Drifting House, The Pastor's Son, A Small Sorrow - that captured the Korean, Korean immigrant and Korean American experience in a way that was raw, gritty, dark, complex, and then there were others that felt a little too forced toward an ambiguous end. I will say Lee's writing is lovely and I know there are stories I will revisit; stories that were haunting and heartfelt and tragic. Be warned, how ...more
Apr 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017
This collection of short stories gave me all the feels. If you liked Jhumpa Lahiri's Intepreter of Maladies or you're looking for something to read after Pachinko, this is a great book to pick up. ...more
Jaime Boler
Dec 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing
We Are All Drifting Houses

Drifting House by Krys Lee (Viking Adult; 224 pages; $25.95.)

I typically do not read short story collections. Novels are my book of choice for a variety of reasons. I enjoy rich, memorable characters, ones who stay with me long after I finish a book. I love a great setting, one in which I am transported to a different time and place so unlike my own and one in which I can lose myself. Plot is also important to me, but it has to be plausible and interesting. I detest ba
Xian Xian
Dec 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
When it comes to books written by East Asians, the ones that tend to get the most recognition are Japanese. At least from what I've seen. I've never heard of Krys Lee, I literally found this on Bookoutlet for like four dollars and was attracted to the minimalist typography. (yes, I'm really that dorky.) It wasn't anything too surreal, no magical realism, no post-apocalypse. This was more like a slice-of-life\ collection, I thought it would also be similar to Your Republic Is Calling You by Young ...more
Nov 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Krys Lee's audacious debut is a wonder to behold - molded into a brilliant sheen with powerful, heart-aching prose and memorable, vivid worlds.

From each page, the sense of care she has devoted to each story is clearly evident, and almost palpably ever-present. In as much as her stories are occupied with emotionally wrought characters dealing with their lives point-blank, there is an unmistakable gentleness with which each story unfolds. I have never felt so safe in the hands of any writer befor
Dec 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
“How ludicrous were all attempts at defining the self.”

I am not a lover of short stories. They tend to end abruptly, and leave me wondering “what just happened?” I am typically left unsatisfied. Drifting House showed me the beauty in a good collection of short stories that allow the reader to quickly plunge into a story, sink into the characters’ lives, and then complete the story all in one relatively short sitting.

In every single story there is a sense of loneliness, loss, and trying to find o
Nov 28, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arc
OK, I've got to apologize to Stephanie Reents. I read her debut The Kissing List and told her to lighten up...and then I read this, which has horrible things happening in every single story. Is there some college that tells writers make their first book sad, depressing, hopeless short stories? First, I think Lee could have easily made some of these short stories into full length novels (with some lightness interludes) and explain at the same time Korean items (food especially) to those of us who ...more
Kim Melso
Nov 18, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: giveaways
This collection of stories is about the struggle that Koreans/ American Koreans have faced. Each story is sadder then the previous. Some stories are a bit confusing but that may just be a culture difference on my part. This was a very interesting read, but again I say, it was quite sad. The stories were written well but I feel some of the stories were a bit rushed to complete. Some of these stories could have been a novel on their own. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn the ...more
Isabella M
Dec 26, 2018 rated it it was ok
Couldn’t even finish the book
Shari J
Aug 23, 2018 rated it liked it
A harrowing & important anthology of Korean short stories set in either Korea or America, revolving around recent changes in history, from postwar to modern times. Lee's talent in storytelling is undeniable. That said, I don't think there's even one happy story in this collection and its grimness sits heavy on the stomach. These stories on Korean identity are insightful, interesting and sometimes even darkly mystical ("The Goose Father"). In terms of tone, I feel like Lee could afford to be less ...more
Geoff Greene
Apr 05, 2018 rated it liked it
* 75% of marriages to your dead wife's best friend end up in suicide. Fact. Wow, I'm going to hell for this joke.
* Come on, don't have sex with your father..
* Is anyone from Korea happy?

Not sure how I feel about these short stories. They were good but at the same time, didn't leave me moved as evident by my lack of notes. Certainly the stories were troubling and at times disturbing but still.
Mark Staniforth
Feb 09, 2012 rated it liked it
On the face of it, South Korean fiction has the raw materials to make it big: partition, war, dictatorships and economic boom-and-bust, all played out against the backdrop of a deeply traditional, rigidly honour-bound society.
But while the likes of Haruki Murakami and Banana Yoshimoto have succeeded in ushering modern Japanese writing into global favour, their South Korean equivalents have struggled to make such an impressive breakthrough beyond their homeland.
Until now: this has been a stellar
Nov 13, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: first-reads
This book is broken into different stories related to Koreans and the U.S. rather than presenting information through a single plot. Each story seems very different from the other eight. The common factor is the heartache as characters struggle with marriage, financial loss, loneliness, and acceptance from their families. Mentioned simultaneously with these struggles is war, which devastates the country as these characters move forward.

The author has a very appealing writing style jumping from
Mar 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Have you ever felt so lost at life? Like being in a place but feeling like you belong somewhere else? Or leaving a place but memories about that place linger, hard to ignore?

This book is all that. All the memories that linger, and selves that are lost.

This book is perilous, this book is dark, this book is blunt.

Far before South Korea flourishes into the sumptuous country that we know today, it has been through a lot of economic struggles and difficulties. North Korea, being the underprivileged
Ashley Marie
Aug 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Drifting House is a collection of short stories about Koreans and their hardships, loves, and facing their haunting truths set in the postwar era to modern times.

It's truly an amazing book, you get so invested in these charters lives even if we only know them for a short period of time. I would definitely describe this book as haunting yet powerful. We read about the hard lives of our charters and what they are going through from becoming a mail order bride to escaping from North Korea.

To me pe
Karen Kao
Nov 11, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Krys Lee ranks among the must-read Korean authors. Together with Han Kang and Shin Kyung-sook, Lee writes about contemporary Korea. If you want to believe the narrative offered in Korean museums and monuments, this should be an heroic tale. Last century’s struggle against Japanese colonialism, the fight for democracy in the 1980s, and the ongoing yearning to be reunited with the North. In Drifting House, Lee banishes these epic battles into the background. Her concern is with those left behi ...more
Adam Johnson
Jan 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
With both pinpoint focus and a large communal scope, the stories in this collection flash upon all aspects of the contemporary Korean experience--emigrating, being left behind, prosperity and poverty, crossings and the clash of the contemporary against the traditional. The stories can be subtle, like "At the Edge of the World" in which a North Korean father tries to adjust to a new life and a new family in LA. Or there can be a tour-de-force feel, as is found in "Beautiful Women," which is sweep ...more
Matthew Meade
Mar 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorite-books
I only like books that are fucked up and this book is more fucked up than most. It’s a nearly perfect collection of stories. Junot Diaz meets J. G. Ballard. Toni Morrison meets Todd Solondz. Denis Johnson meets Michael Heneke.

The stories “A Temporary Marriage” and “The Believer” are so full of wonder and strange, harrowing beauty that they almost outshine the entire rest of the collection. The other short stories are sturdy, inquisitive, sad, and lithe.

The final story, a short novella called “
Susan Bybee
Jun 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
In this collection of nine stories (shout-out to J.D. Salinger???) Krys Lee explores the lives of North and South Koreans unmoored from their lives, both in their native countries and abroad. South Korea, shown from the early 1970s under the rule of dictator Park Chung-Hee, through the 1997 financial crisis and to the present day, seems to emerge as a character in its own right. Interestingly, many of the people in these stories are Christian, but religion seems to fail them repeatedly. I highly ...more
Like the author I was whisked away to this magical land when I was 5, and when I heard her describe it in an interview, I immediately decided to get the book. As with a good deal of Korean films I've seen, there's taboo, raw emotion, and a strain of feminism. The writing didn't blow me away, but they're good stories, and I needed to read them. I kind of wish the Korean-Americans writing prose would go as far out as Kim Hyesoon and Don Mee Choi in poetry. Maybe they're out there, and I just don't ...more
Feb 05, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: short-fiction, koreas
Rating this more on tone than content. The stories are beautifully, impeccably crafted, even when they veer into (what to me felt like) melodrama (looking at you, The Salaryman); they're bleak and brutal as well, so maybe not recommended for one sitting. ...more
Jun 01, 2016 rated it liked it
Chose this book because I had never read anything about or by Koreans and I had just visited Korea. Although well written, I found the stories depressing.
Apr 30, 2021 rated it really liked it
A collection of short stories depicting Korean lives in various backdrops — famine in North Korea, financial crises of South Korea and cramped rooms in Koreatown, Amerikkka. Each story holds weaves of immigrant struggle, Asian culture and human stories. My personal favourite was The Salaryman.

Books about lives in native homelands and the immigrant hustle always tugs at my heartstrings only because I seem to be able to relate to those much more despite having a “home” in Malaysia. If you’ve follo
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Regarding story #1: Do Korean men still beat their wives? 1 15 Mar 15, 2012 01:08AM  
Creative Reviews: Win Drifting House by Krys Lee 2 10 Feb 28, 2012 07:35PM  
Bloggers Unite™ : Win Drifting House by Krys Lee 1 2 Feb 23, 2012 10:10AM  
Book Bloggers Ano...: Win Drifting House by Krys Lee 1 2 Feb 23, 2012 10:07AM  

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Krys Lee was born in Seoul, South Korea, raised in California and Washington, and studied in the United States and England. She was a finalist for Best New American Voices, received a special mention in the 2012 Pushcart Prize XXXVI, and her work has appeared in the Kenyon Review, Narrative magazine, Granta (New Voices), California Quarterly, Asia Weekly, the Guardian, the New Statesman, and Conde ...more

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