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The Hole

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A bestseller in Korea, a psychological thriller about loneliness and the dark truths we try to bury.

In this tense, gripping novel by a rising star of Korean literature, Ogi has woken from a coma after causing a devastating car accident that took his wife’s life and left him paralyzed and badly disfigured. His caretaker is his mother-in-law, a widow grieving the loss of her only child. Ogi is neglected and left alone in his bed. His world shrinks to the room he lies in and his memories of his troubled relationship with his wife, a sensitive, intelligent woman who found all of her life goals thwarted except for one: cultivating the garden in front of their house. But soon Ogi notices his mother-in-law in the abandoned garden, uprooting what his wife had worked so hard to plant and obsessively digging larger and larger holes. When asked, she answers only that she is finishing what her daughter started.

Evoking Herman Koch’s The Dinner and Stephen King’s Misery, award-winning author Hye-young Pyun’s The Hole is a superbly crafted and deeply unnerving novel about the horrors of isolation and neglect in all of its banal and brutal forms. As Ogi desperately searches for a way to escape, he discovers the difficult truth about his wife and the toll their life together took on her.

137 pages, Hardcover

First published March 23, 2016

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About the author

Hye-Young Pyun

24 books183 followers
편혜영(片惠英,1972년~)은 대한민국의 소설가이다. 서울에서 태어났으며, 서울예대 문예창작과를 졸업하고 한양대학교 국어국문학과 대학원 석사과정을 졸업했다. 2000년 서울신문 신춘문예에 단편소설 〈이슬털기〉가 당선되면서 데뷔했다. 2007년 단편소설 〈사육장 쪽으로〉로 제40회 한국일보문학상을, 2009년 단편소설 〈토끼의 묘〉로 제10회 이효석문학상을, 2012년 소설집 〈저녁의 구애〉로 제42회 동인문학상을, 2014년 단편소설 〈몬순〉으로 제38회 이상문학상을 수상했다. 현재 명지대학교 문예창작학과 교수(2013~)로 재직 중이다.

Pyun Hye-young was born in Seoul in 1972. She earned her undergraduate degree in creative writing and graduate degree in Korean literature from Hanyang University. After receiving these degrees, Pyun worked as an office worker, and many office workers appear in her stories.

Pyun began publishing in 2000 and published three collections of stories, Aoi Garden, To The Kennels, and Evening Courtship as well as the novel Ashes and Red. In 2007, To the Kennels won the Hankook Ilbo Literary Award, in 2009 the short story O Cuniculi won the Yi Hyo-Seok Literature prize and then the Today’s Young Writer Award in 2010, while in 2011 Evening Courtship won the Dong-in Literary Award. Her works have several themes including alienation in modern life, an apocalyptic world, and they are often infused with grotesque images. The novel Ashes and Red explores irony and the dual nature of humanity.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 978 reviews
Profile Image for Gabby.
1,209 reviews26k followers
June 10, 2020
This book really surprised me. This book definitely feels more like literary fiction than horror to me, bu the horror is very subtle and effective. This book plays on a lot of real life fears like loneliness and grief and depression, and it very much reminds me of Misery by Stephen King, the plot is very similar. And even though this book is less than 200 pages, it was thought provoking and it takes some time to absorb all the ideas presented in this book.

And also, I'm obsessed with this book cover, it's so beautiful.

Here's the reading vlog where I read this book: https://youtu.be/O_5X4UhwaOY
Profile Image for emma.
1,822 reviews45.6k followers
April 15, 2021
It's possible I am simply very stupid.

This book did not do it for me, and in fact I actively did not enjoy reading it, but that may be my fault. There may have been the greatest thematic undertone in the world going on behind the scenes and it simply went right over my head due to my own dullness. It wouldn't be shocking.

But whatever it is (and probably it's me), I did not like this. At all.

This is for 3 main reasons:
1) My ignorance. CLEARLY there is supposed to be something I should've been getting here but it just...did...not...work. I enjoy analyzing books and trying to squeeze the literary meaning out of them but this metaphorical orange was giving me NOTHING. And most oranges give very little juice, if you think about it, so that says a lot.
2) It's rushed??? Why is this so short? I didn't feel any of the sort of creepiness or trapped-ness or impending doom-ness I was clearly intended to because this entire book is pamphlet-length. Why must we suffer? I am always Team Short Book so if I'm saying it needed to be longer you KNOW it's true.
3) It feels really ableist. Our protagonist gets into a car accident at the beginning of the book that leaves him paralyzed and bed-/wheelchair-bound, and the way this is talked about just did not sit right with me!! And not only from the characters that are intended to be cruel - just in general.

Plus this is icky and very dark and unpleasant, but none of those things are things that bug me when they're done right. Those are paragons of modern literary fiction right there.

Bottom line: It's not you, it's me! (But actually I think it's you.) (You here is the book, not the innocent person reading this.) (Or probably semi-innocent, realistically.)


oh.............it's a no from me. but regretfully.

review to come / 2 ish :(

currently-reading updates

Profile Image for Jessica Woodbury.
1,586 reviews1,984 followers
April 6, 2017
It was not hard to sell me on a dark Korean horror novel/psychological thriller. The comparison to Shirley Jackson was intriguing, of course. But I think it's best not to compare it to Jackson or King but to come into this book without the expectations an American would have of a horror novel written by an American. 2016's THE VEGETARIAN will feel much closer, not only because the author is also Korean but because it also has a sly, subversiveness that can go unnoticed if you aren't willing to look below the surface.

The title does refer to an actual hole, but I found this quite illuminating from the agent's website: "a transliteration of the English word “hole,” 홀 (hol) is a Korean prefix meaning “alone” and most readily refers to one who is widowed." Oghi, the protagonist, has become suddenly alone and widowed after an accident that killed his wife and left him almost completely incapacitated.

In the early chapters, this alone is enough to make the horrors of Oghi's life palpable and uncomfortable. Oghi is unable to communicate with anyone and is completely reliant on his wife's mother for care. Part of what makes this book so effective is how Oghi's mother-in-law is not presented as a villain, just a sad and lonely woman who has only one person left, a person she does not really know all that well. Likewise, we know little about Oghi at first, but gradually learn more and more about his former life and his wife.

If I can give you any advice, it would be to read this novel slowly. I am tempted to read it again. Because the story you think you are reading is not the real story at all. Beneath the surface, as Oghi suffers first from his change of circumstances and later from all kinds of tortures, there is something else happening. Another version of Oghi's life is unfolding before you and it is up to you to find the little clues here and there. Think of it almost more like a detective novel. Read it wondering who Oghi is, who his mother-in-law is, who his wife is. And as the clues pile up, you will find this may be less of a horror novel and more of a revenge story.

While I would classify this as horror and some of the horror comes through physical acts, this is not a violent or gory book, so if you are worried about such things, do not. The horror of not having control of your own body is horror enough, it turns out.
Profile Image for Henk.
822 reviews
July 20, 2021
Underwhelming and definitely not a thriller in terms of propulsion of narrative or build in tension. Much is left unsaid when the end suddenly arrives

Normally I start my review with a quote that struck me from the book, and it is telling I don't have any jotted down from reading The Hole. I do feel tempted to add a Devil Wears Prada reaction GIF of Meryl Streep saying: "Floral? For spring? Groundbreaking."
This books reads easily enough but the payoff is seemingly non-existent as is tension. Bottomline: take out a good disability insurance and make a testament.

Oghi wakes up paralysed, with his mother in law hovering over him, after a car crash that killed his wife. I think most people can imagine how the novel develops from this, but yes, he turns out to have quite a weird relationship with his wife, and yes the mother in law is less Mother Theresa than she seems.
There are some very awkward scenes of changing someone’s katheder in front of everyone, and a cringe worthy first encounter with one's parents in law. Isolation, shame and double standards for men and women play a role, and a garden serves twice as a proxy war for a relationship.
I wished Hye-Young Pyun would have pushed these themes a bit further and dared to depart the template you as reader expect - 1.5 stars.
Profile Image for Tony.
897 reviews1,482 followers
January 30, 2018
A psychological thriller, yes. But I think it's more than that. Why else make the evil mother-in-law Japanese in a novel otherwise filled with Korean characters. It's deceptively simple but carefully plotted; assured. I read it in two or three gulps. I didn't take a note.

The protagonist is paralyzed, numb, incapable of speaking. He will suffer horrors, humiliation, memory.

Do you ever read a book and wonder: Is that me? Am I him?

Tasukete kudasai. Tasukete kudasai. Tasukete kudasai. . . ..
Profile Image for Paul Fulcher.
Author 2 books1,170 followers
July 21, 2021
So that's what I'll do. What my daughter couldn't. What she meant to do. What she wanted to do. I have to do it for her. And I will.

편혜영 (Pyun Hye-Young)'s 홀(a phonetic 한글 rendition of 'hole') was published in Korean in 2016 and translated into English, as Hole, by Sora Kim-Russell.

I have previously read the author's Evening Proposal, which I wasn't entirely convinced by (https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...), in part due to the translation (by a different translator), and in part as this was a collection of short-stories, which all seemed to stop just as they got going. But reading her in this longer novel form certainly enhances my appreciation.

Our first person narrator Oghi, a cartographer, wakes up in a hospital bed, paralysed and unable to speak (due to damage to his jaw and vocal cords), following a car crash.

A crash which also took the life of his wife, in part, he believes due to his instinctive reaction at the moment of impact:

He knew that, in order to stay alive, he had turned the steering wheel towards his side of the car at the decisive moment. Unconsciously. Just as any other driver would have done. To protect himself.

His wife and he were driving to a hotel for something of a clear-the-air getaway, although he is still a little shocked when the doctor tells him of the hotel that his wife had booked:

He’d gone there three years earlier for an academic conference. Then he’d gone back twice more after that. But it caught him off guard to learn that his wife had chosen that hotel. She hadn’t told him the name.

When first meeting his mother-in-law Oghi, searching for a compliment to make, praises a porcelain vase, only to find to his embarrassment that is it a urn for ashes of his mother-in-law's own Japanese mother. As his wife tells him:

The thing about my mom is, she’s Japanese. To be precise she’s half Japanese

When he overlaid the image he had of Japanese people onto his mother-in-law, who was refined and elegant but difficult to get to know, certain things made sense.

Despite intensive therapy, and gaining limited movement in one arm, Oghi remains unable to move or to properly articulate speech, and is eventually moved to his house where his mother-in-law (now herself widowed) looks after him.

Oghi and his wife's house had a garden, which he used to host BBQs for his work colleagues. But after one such occasion, she decides instead to take it over to grow trees and plants, ostensibly to give her a focus for her life but : of course she could have had another reason entirely: to take the yard away from Oghi. He has only one (symbolic) request - that she refrains from planting climbing plants, which 'gave him the creeps', one it turns out she ignored.

Now Oghi's mother-in-law takes over both his wife's responsibilities to him, but also his wife's journals (where she documented her life with and feelings towards Oghi), and also her garden.

Her relationship with Oghi is deeply enigmatic - he unable to interpret her feelings and unable to communicate his own. On one hand she takes on the onerous tasks of his daily care, changing catherers, emptying bed pans, turning him over to avoid bedsores etc. On the other, she neglects his physical rehabilitation, chases away his therapist, and seems horrified when one doctor suggest (rather optimistically) that he might one day recover.

And, in the garden, she starts to dig a larger and larger hole saying, as per the opening quote, that she is completing the work her daughter had begun......

The symbolism of the hole also links back to Oghi's profession, and he thinks of the oldest known map of the world, the Babylonian Map of the World, dated to the 5th century BC, and the hole that lies at its middle. The prosaic explanation is that this was made by compass-like device used to make it, but for Oghi it also symbolises a hole at the centre of his life, including before the crash.


While set up in many respect as a Misery-like thriller, with a tension also cranked up by the effective graphic device of each chapter heading containing a black dot that widens considerably as the story progresses until it dominates the page, Hole is in reality more of a psychological study of isolation.

It doesn't pull its punches as to the day-to-day realities of Oghi's condition, or his frustration when he is visited by his former colleagues:

The only one lying in bed all day, pissing himself, sweating, shitting, worrying about getting bedsores, then actually getting bedsores, feeling constantly stoned from his meds, drowsy all the time, and watching his life slide by while all he could do was stare up at the ceiling, was Oghi.

And as the novel progresses, we also gain more insights into his relationship with his wife - why he had visited that hotel previously, what prompted her to take over the garden and banish the BBQs, why they were making the fatal road trip. And indeed Oghi himself gains insights, at the novel's end, into the isolation that his wife felt in their marriage ...

This is, I think, the 7th Kim-Russell translation I have read, and she is one of my favourite Korean-English translators alongside the excellent Deborah Smith and Jung Yewon. And indeed as per my review I much preferred her prior translation (in a journal) of one of the stories in Evening Proposal to that included in the published book. Her translation also tend to be towards the reads-naturally-in-English end of the spectrum, certainly as compared to Jung's, which makes her well suited to books of this nature.

She does however have to admit defeat with one particular element of Korean world play, and simply have her narrator explain it. The Korean word 자기 (phonetically 'jagi'), can serve both as a pronoun for myself (although pronouns are usually omitted in Korean), a term of endearment to a partner (similar to honey or darling) and also the word for porcelain, here the porcelain of two urns placed prominently by Oghi's bed by his mother-in-law: one contains the ashes of her own mother, and the other, he speculates, either his wife's ashes, or has perhaps been readied for his own.

Thanks to the Literature Translation Institute of Korea for the free copy of the book won in a prize draw for readers of Korean Literature Now . Their take on the book: https://koreanliteraturenow.com/ficti...

Overall: an effective psychological study, 3.5 stars, but rounded down to 3 more for personal taste as this isn't the type of book that, had it been written in English, I would likely have read.
August 27, 2021
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Last year I read Hye-Young Pyun's The Law of Lines and in spite of a few reservations, I did find it to be an absorbing read. Yes, it was bleak, dark, and even grotesque at times but her tone never struck me as cruel or gratuitous. Given that The Hole won 'Shirley Jackson Award for Novel' in 2017 I actually expected it to be as or even more accomplished than The Law of Lines (especially given that she published it a year after The Law of Lines). But, boy oh boy, was I wrong. Usually, when I write for a review I did not think much of, I like to put a lil' disclaimer suggesting GR users check out more positive reviews and or not to take my review too seriously...which I will not be doing this time around with The Hole, a novel that I found to be abhorrent. I gave it the benefit of doubt, I kept on reading, hoping for the story to be anything other than torture-porn....and it did not happen.

There is so much wrong with this novel. It was not horror, it didn't inspire feelings of fear or anxiety in me, only disgust. It was vulgur, sadistic, lurid, and ableist. The novel has been compared to Misery as it also happens to portray a man being held captive by an 'insane' woman but I doubt that King's novel was as gratuitously sensationalist as this piece of garbage.

After surviving a car accident which his wife did not, Ogi wakes up at a hospital, paralyzed and disfigured. Ogi is an orphan with no close relatives so it is his widowed mother-in-law who takes the role of his caretaker. Ogi is presented as a rather misogynistic individual, who does not seem to be drowning in grief over the death of his wife. We get flashbacks into his married life that show us how not nice he was, he wasn't a great man or good husband.
In the present, his mother-in-law is shown to be neglectful, cruel, and abusive towards him. She repeatedly humiliates him in front of others, for example, by changing him in front of them, ridiculing him for being disabled, touching him inappropriately. I am so sick of this type of 'horror'. The bodies of those who fat, deformed, and or disabled, are treated with morbid fascination, described in a way that is meant to elicit feelings of disgust and or discomfort in the reader. Maybe that was okay in the 1980s but today? It is just fucking offensive. A fat woman's body is a "sagging bloated thickened meat". Wtf?
And the novel seems to imply that Ogi deserves his mother-in-law, that being disabled is his 'comeuppance' for his not-so-great behavior. Ma da quando in quando!

If you think that The Human Centipede is a brilliant work of horror then you may find The Hole to be a riveting read. I, for one, wish I could wipe it from my memory. I found it so tacky and revolting and perverted that I doubt I will ever pick up anything by this author ever again. That this trashy novel went on to win an award named after one of my favourite authors who excelled in creating atmospheres of quiet uneasy...well, that just adds insult to injury.
Profile Image for Book Riot Community.
953 reviews108k followers
July 20, 2017
Just the idea of Korean horror in translation was enough to get me on board with this book. Even better, it’s reminiscent of both Han Kang and Shirley Jackson, a sly and sharp book that only slowly lets you see what it really is. After a car accident that killed his wife, Oghi is almost completely physically incapacitated, unable to move or speak and cared for by his mother-in-law. There is a lot of physical horror here that is troubling all on its own, as Oghi is less a physical being as a set of eyes and a brain watching the world around him, powerless. But as you read, you start to realize that there is more here than what it seems on the surface. There is something sinister that is sometimes seen but sometimes completely hidden. This is the kind of book where the most important story is the one that is never written but only hinted at around the edges. I may pick it back up and read it again just to make sure I’ve caught every little bit.

— Jessica Woodbury

from The Best Books We Read In April 2017: http://bookriot.com/2017/05/01/riot-r...
Profile Image for ❄️BooksofRadiance❄️.
602 reviews724 followers
December 5, 2018

Reading this book was like an experience unlike any other.
From start to finish the story is so uncomfortable and claustrophobic that it tugs at your heartstrings not knowing what else will befall the protagonist or how on Earth it’ll all conclude.
This’s translated from Korean and serious props to the translator who did an excellent job. It was superb.
Profile Image for Jovana Autumn.
560 reviews174 followers
November 28, 2020
I had no idea what I was signing up for when I got this book on my e-reader.

I SUGGEST THAT YOU DON’T READ THE BOOK BLURB! Because it literally has spoilers for some of the plot.

I am not a fan of thrillers, but I am a huge fan of psychology in anything so that’s what I was expecting from this book – to relax and gain some insight into the psychology of characters.

I got a beautifully constructed book with very good and insightful psychology and feminism.

Ok, the visual aspect of this book is the eponymous Hole. We have a black circle representing the Hole in every chapter of the book, it looks like this:


That just goes with the atmosphere of the book which is highly claustrophobic followed by the feeling of hopelessness.

Our main character is disabled. He wakes up after being in a coma because of a car accident he and his wife had. His wife didn’t make it. And he is paralyzed, only being able to blink.

“He knew that to stay alive, he had turned the steering wheel towards his side of the car at the decisive moment. Unconsciously. Just as any other driver would have done. To protect himself.”

This is the first bit of insight into what type of person Oghi was.

The first few chapters give us a look into the poor man and his current state, so we get attached and feel for him.

Which is exactly what the author wanted.

Given the series of flashbacks that intertwine with the present time, we get an insight into Oghi’s life and the events leading to the accident.

In the present time, his wife’s mother is taking care of him because she is the only family he has left and likewise for her. Her daughter has left a lot of notes and documents where she wrote her thoughts about life, and in some of those notes, her husband was mentioned, of course.

The feeling of paranoia and anxiety is felt all through the novel because we don’t have an idea what is going to happen and just as Oghi, we are helpless and can only watch the events unfold.

Oghi’s flashbacks show us a selfish and narcissistic man who didn’t really connect to his wife.

His constantly belittling his wife, as a woman of many talents but she couldn’t make anything work out. How he thought she was shallow for admiring women for their looks. As a woman can be successful and look good, she could carry whatever image she wants of any woman that inspires her with her strength, intellect, beauty, and skills.

“Oghi looked lovingly on his wife’s shallow vanity. She knew exactly what her goals were, and though she believed in them, she failed at nearly everything she set out to do. Yet she brushed off each failure, hardly any worse for the wear. Then quickly found herself a new role model and extolled their virtues ad nauseam. By doing so, she seemed to come to an understanding of the difference between longing and ambition.”

What is scary is that I can see a lot of people fitting the same picture as the main character Oghi.
The thing is that the flashbacks were given through his eyes and he saw nothing wrong with the things he did, the reader gets to figure that out.

If the “revenge” of his mother in law was even an act of revenge in the end. She wasn’t a negative character in any sense.

The ending does go in favor of the conclusion that Oghi could not look for the other side but only himself. He didn’t understand anything and finds himself a victim at the end. Nothing could reach him, being that he is just like a hole in a sense. He was a cartographer so this passage was very fitting:

“The world's oldest map, the Babylonian Map of the World, had a little circle bored through the center. [...] That dark, narrow hole went as deep as the memory of an age that no one could ever return to. The only way to reach that lost age was through that hole, but the hole itself could never be reached.”

This was such a beautifully written book that I was in shock when I finished it. I would recommend it to anybody because I think this is far more than just a thriller.

And I am keeping an eye for more work of Hye-Young Pyun in the future, because goddamn. *insert a picture of Uma Thurman in Pulp fiction because I am trash for that movie*

Possibly a 5-star read!?

I did not expect the book to be this good. Review to come.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Eliza.
593 reviews1,380 followers
Shelved as 'soon-to-be-read'
April 3, 2018
I literally bought this 100% because of the cover. No shame. I just hope the inside is as pretty as the outside.😂
Profile Image for SheAintGotNoShoes.
1,557 reviews2 followers
May 10, 2022
Nope. Did not like. For such a short novel it took me 6 days to read when it was short enough to read in one day. Dragged on and on and felt very claustrophobic. I have no idea what the ending meant, but I am glad it is over.

It was also excruciating for me especially as I have a lot of anxiety and phobias and many of them are related to what the main character endures, so it was way too close to the bone for my comfort level.
Profile Image for marta the book slayer.
382 reviews810 followers
October 23, 2021
Nothing about this novel was pleasant. A horror novel can be pleasant when done correctly, as in scares the shit out of me. A psychological thriller is pleasant to me when its intriguing, grasps me from the start and leaves me questioning everything when it's over. When I say nothing about this was pleasant, this implies that it was a terrible horror novel and is in no way a psychological thriller.

For something as short as this was, nothing really happened. In short stories such as these, the plot could either progress incredibly fast or one single event is detailed. This was never ending, but in a weird Groundhog day situation where I felt I was reading the same thing over and over again.

Oghi wakes up in a car accident that killed his wife and left him paralyzed. With no family of his own, his mother-in law steps in the care humiliate/torture him for the remainder of this novel.

I began this novel suspecting two things:
a. was the car accident an accident or did something strange, cruel, and maybe supernatural have a play?
b. the hole (as the title suggests) will play a huge part; was his wife digging some hole in the garden which is why she died? is there a body buried under there that gets uncovered?

You can assume based on my rating whether my suspicions were acknowledged or not.

Overall, this novel is disturbing (not in a horror way) but in an "the way people are described is making me uncomfortable and there is a lot of ableism" kind of way.

read as part of spooky season haunted tales that hopefully keep me up till the witching hour
🕸 picture of dorian gray
🕸 we have always lived in the castle
🕸 rules for vanishing
🕸 dracula
🕸 dangers of smoking in bed
🕸 fever dream
🕸 dr.jekyll and mr.hyde
🕸 the houseguest and other stories
🕸 frankenstein in baghdad
🕸 the woman in black
🕸 carmilla
🕸 the hole
Profile Image for Sarah Bookmarked.
84 reviews413 followers
June 23, 2019
Durch Ogi’s Leben geht ein Riss. Er überlebt einen schweren Autounfall, verliert dabei allerdings seine Frau und die Kontrolle über seinen Körper. Denn er erwacht schwer verletzt und vollständig gelähmt. Sein Körper braucht Zeit um sich zu erholen und so wird er von seiner Schwiegermutter (der einzig verbliebenen Angehörigen) zuhause gepflegt. Doch Ogi kennt die Mutter seiner Frau kaum und auch die Umstände des Unfalls sind bisher ungeklärt. Während er bewegungslos im Bett liegt, kommen die Erinnerungen zurück und seine Schwiegermutter beginnt sich seltsam zu verhalten…

Mein Eindruck:
Ich freue mich über die Tatsache, dass der deutsche Buchmarkt aufgrund des Erfolgs von Han Kang durch mehr Literatur aus Südkorea bereichert wird. Aus diesem Grund notierte ich mir dieses Buch auch sofort nachdem ich es unter den Neuerscheinungen sah.

Das Buch ist äußerst atmosphärisch. Ogi hat keinerlei Kontrolle über seinen Körper und ist anderen Menschen hilflos ausgeliefert. Dieser beklemmende, fast schon klaustrophobische, Zustand verstärkt sich mit jedem weiteren Kapitel, zumal die Umstände um ihn herum immer unheimlicher werden. Und da der Leser nur das Wenige wahrnehmen kann, das Ogi aus seinem Bett heraus beobachtet oder erlebt, hat sich das ungute Gefühl der Hilflosigkeit sehr schnell auch auf mich übertragen.

Gleichzeitig war mir Ogi nicht sonderlich sympathisch und mit jeder wiederkehrenden Erinnerung an seine Frau, seine Ehe, seinen Beruf, seine Freunde und die Hintergründe des Unfalls habe ich ihm und seinen Gefühlen weniger vertraut. Ich wurde dadurch zunehmend skeptisch was die Frage der Schuld und Wahrheit angeht. Nicht alles wirkt real und das macht es schwer zwischen Traum und Wirklichkeit zu unterscheiden.

Die Spannung verläuft exponentiell, sodass ich mich bei der ersten Hälfte schon fragte ob in diesem Buch überhaupt mal etwas passiert und die zweite Hälfte dann fast atemlos, mit aufgerissenen Augen und an einem Stück las, weil sich die Ereignisse derart überschlugen.

Trotz dieser Spannung am Ende, habe ich aber leider vergeblich auf etwas Neues oder Überraschendes gewartet. Der Plot ist nicht unbedingt originell und bleibt auf bekanntem Terrain. Deshalb konnte mich das Buch letztlich zwar gut unterhalten, wird mir aber sicher nicht allzu lange im Gedächtnis bleiben.

Meine Videorezension:
Profile Image for David.
652 reviews303 followers
September 7, 2017
Oghi has awoken from a coma after a horrific car accident. His wife has died and Oghi is almost completely paralyzed. With a shattered jaw and damaged vocal cords he’s also rendered mute. Eventually discharged from the hospital he finds himself alone in the world with only his mother-in-law to look after him. She’s exhausted by the effort but also seems to be harbouring some seething resentment towards Oghi.

It’s a claustrophobic story with a bubbling undercurrent of mounting tension told from Oghi’s curtailed perspective. This is a Korean revenge drama set to a low simmer.
Profile Image for Mindi.
797 reviews264 followers
August 20, 2018
One of my biggest fears is lack of control. And boy does this novel play to that. It was super hard for me to read, because the situation the protagonist finds himself in is an almost unbearable idea to me. But I'm really glad I stuck with it and read the entire book. This is a slow burn that has a very startling and satisfying ending.

You may have already noticed from the blurb that this a Korean novel that was translated into English. There is always a bit of something that is missing from a story that is translated from its original language, and in this case, even though there is a literal hole in the novel, Jessica Woodbury mentions in her review that "a transliteration of the English word “hole,” 홀 (hol) is a Korean prefix meaning “alone” and most readily refers to one who is widowed." Oghi, the protagonist, has become suddenly alone and widowed after an accident that killed his wife and left him almost completely incapacitated." That is a direct quote from her review, and I urge you to read it. She sums up this book very well.

Oghi wakes up in the hospital after being in a coma for several months. He was on a road trip with his wife when they crashed their car, killing her and leaving him disfigured and paralyzed. The only way that Oghi is able to communicate is through blinking. He doesn't have any family left, so the only person he can rely on helping him to recover is his mother-in-law. Sadly, Oghi doesn't have a great relationship with her, and she is grieving for the loss of her daughter. She eventually sets up Oghi in his home with the understanding that he will have more surgeries and regular physical therapy. However, Oghi's mother-in-law has a different plan for him. One that he slowly and terrifyingly learns he is completely unable to control.

This situation makes my skin crawl. Oghi can only barely move one of his arms, and he cannot speak at all. He is at the complete mercy of his mother-in-law who completely shuts him out from the rest of the world and slowly begins to torture him. The entire novel is told from Ohgi's perspective and his desperation is horrific. This one has a twist though, and I thought the ending was done very well. This is a novel of slowly creeping desperation, and it made me squirm in a number of places. It isn't gory, it's just the psychological themes were intense for me. That means it was well translated, and I highly recommend it.
Profile Image for Marjorie.
543 reviews54 followers
July 18, 2017
Oghi has woken from a coma only to learn that he has been involved in an accident that has left him paralyzed and unable to speak and his wife dead. He is left in the care of his mother-in-law and is the object of neglect and abuse. He only has the small bedroom and his memories and has no control over anything in his life – his health, his money, his home, his future. His mother-in-law obviously doesn’t have Oghi’s best interests at heart. She starts to work in her dead daughter’s garden, strangely digging larger and larger holes.

To say more about the plot would be to spoil the author’s meticulous rendering of this chilling story. She builds up a feeling of dread and suspense that had me on the edge of my seat. There was one scene in the book where I literally jumped out of my chair and walked around the room reading it. I flew through the book and am looking forward to more of this author. It’s a short read but definitely intriguing. Quite a literary accomplishment in the thriller genre.


This book was given to me by the publisher in return for an honest review.
Profile Image for Michael Sorbello.
Author 1 book234 followers
March 20, 2022
Plays out in a similar fashion as Stephen King's Misery, only this time it's between a disgruntled widower and his unstable step-mother. After being rendered crippled from a brutal car crash that killed his wife, Oghi is forced into the care of his insane step-mother and a world of abuse begins. You could quite literally say that this novel is about Oghi slowly sinking into a metaphorical hole, his broken past and his unhealthy relationships with nearly every single person in his life are revealed little by little and the despair and helplessness really begins to leap out of the pages.

I loved the subtle delivery of the plot and the flaws of its characters, every single character in this book has major flaws that really get under your skin and make you feel uncomfortable every time they show up. The thing that drove me crazy at times was the mind-numbingly slow pacing and the dry prose. There wasn't anything about the style of the writing that I found appealing or enjoyable to read and 90% of the plot was telling rather than showing, there was very little dialogue. What kept me invested in the story was the characters themselves and their descent into madness and despair.
Profile Image for Kate.
1,217 reviews2,211 followers
March 23, 2018

I feel like every time I finish a Korean/Japanese/Chinese book I start with 'this is a quiet story about...' but, again this is a quiet, slow story. This book follows a man who is paralyzed after a car crash where he survived and his wife did not. It's about exploring his past and his memories, what he thought he knew and what he didn't about himself but also his wife, as well as a really creepy mother-in-law and a hole. This book had some BEAUTIFUL passages - really, the writing was GREAT. but, overall it didn't hold my interest. It was a very quick read once I really got into it, but I don't think this is one that will stay with me for a long time or anything. It was a nice little book though.
Profile Image for Nancy Oakes.
1,920 reviews719 followers
June 13, 2018
like a 3.7 rounded up

This book was recently nominated for the Shirley Jackson award, but I'd read the author's short story "Caring for Plants" in the New Yorker last year, which actually led to me buying the novel. It's a frightening tale, told solely through the point of view of the victim of a car accident (Oghi) in which his wife died and he was left in a coma. Now he is awake, he paralyzed and unable to speak. He has now returned to

"the world where, as his doctor explained, the only way to survive was through sheer force of will."

He has no family he can call on to help him once he leaves the hospital; his friends and colleagues at the university where he works obviously have their own lives, so his mother-in-law takes it upon herself to take care of him. As it turns out, that probably was a bad idea, because while he lays, completely trapped in his own broken body, depending on his mother-in-law for his very survival, his mother-in-law is quietly making her way through secrets left behind by her daughter, who, as we begin to realize, was beyond unhappy. While Oghi has plenty of time to contemplate his life and marriage, his mother-in-law begins to crack under the strain not only of her grief, but by being the caregiver to the person who she feels is responsible for her daughter's death.

I've seen this book compared to Stephen King'sMisery, but The Hole has much more weight and depth than King's book ever could. Some interesting points come up in exploring Oghi and his relationship to others, making you wonder if he is deserving more of sympathy or dislike. To tell more would be to spoil, and while not perfect, this is a dark page turner of a novel that I absolutely could not put down. It's one of those books where every time a page was turned I was afraid of what would happen next; I had to force myself NOT to turn to the ending more than once.

Profile Image for Shainlock .
720 reviews
October 20, 2021
I believe a lot can be lost in translation sometimes and I think there were some things that were definitely lost here. There were two particular words that you needed to know in Korean that were similar and were a pun.. it didn’t come through right.
The significance of the hole flew past me. It is mentioned once or twice in references. This was not “Misery” by The Stevester. No.
This tells you all kinds of things and then just cuts off and if you have half a brain you can see exactly where it is going and you are questioning the whole time —why does no one do anything ? He comes in contact with all these people !
The dread builds and builds and then nothing. The ending is very much implied. Well, you have to infer what will happen, but you know.
You only get one point of view also. This can be good or bad. It can be mysterious and aggravating. I feel like we receive so much information only to see the MC in a hole at the end telling us he is crying.
I’m still trying to make up my mind... did he deserve it? Is this what his wife wanted? Was this written in her study ?
There is a ton you don’t know but can surmise or dismiss. For this reason I just gave it a three. It sits in the middle of the highway to me. It could have been more and it could have been less but was written with obvious skill and ingenuity.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Becky.
1,319 reviews1,612 followers
March 31, 2021
I borrowed this from the library after nominating another of Hye-Young Pyun's books (City of Ash and Red) in one of my groups for a challenge, because I wanted to see what her writing was like. I'm still not sure.

This book is short - novella short. But it has taken me almost two weeks to read it. I kept reading it in tiny pieces, and putting it down, and coming back much later. The first quarter was interesting, and I thought it was going to go in a very different direction than it actually did... but OK. No biggie. We'll see where this goes.

Then the 2nd and 3rd quarters were so BORING and annoying. This book is narrated in a 3rd person limited style, so while it's not directly narrated by the main character, we still only see from his perspective, and his perspective is... Ugh.

Yesterday, I made these comments in a group about this book:
"The only interesting thing so far about it is literally one line where the main character thinks that he sees his dead wife's spirit. The rest has been his thoughts and opinions of her, which vacillate between "I want to make her happy" and "she's a wishy-washy, depressed, never-finish-anything failure who just wastes my money on her whimsical desires of the moment".

Honestly, the "I want to make her happy" bits even come across as being holier than thou with a nice dash of martyr complex, and having the subtext of "I want her to be happy so she's less annoying about being UNhappy" narcissism.

This guy's a real charmer"


"This is a Korean "psychological thriller" about a guy who was in a car accident that put him in a coma/paralyzed him and killed his wife. He wakes up and simultaneously makes me wish for the sweet release of death."

The last quarter of the book got more interesting, and I can definitely see the comparisons to Stephen King's book Misery, but it was completely unsatisfying. I just didn't get anything out of it. I guess it was compelling enough for me to finish (all 137 pages), but I didn't like the characters, I expected and hoped for a more supernatural/psychological thriller style... a is it or isn't it kind of psychological thriller. This was just... utterly mundane and kind of boring.

Anyway, I've been trying to type this through the auras that are signaling an oncoming migraine, so I'm calling it quits here. This book just didn't do much for me.
Profile Image for Dawn F.
494 reviews67 followers
May 15, 2021
To quote Gordon Ramsay, "Well fuck me."

After a car accident that kills his wife, Oghi is left paralyzed and bedridden, completely dependent on doctors, therapists, and his mother-in-law, who is mourning the loss of her daughter and clings to Oghi in a way that would make Kathy Bates' character in Misery proud. The horror tag comes from Oghi's loss of control over his life and his body, of what is being done to him as he and his mother-in-law grow closer, creepy step by creepy step.

It's very effective, and my only gripe is that it's so short! I'll definitely read more by Hye-Young Pyun.
Profile Image for Zak.
406 reviews28 followers
April 18, 2018
Korean suspense/thriller novel. The main character, Oghi, is a well-known cartographer and tenured professor. While driving with his wife, they are involved in a car crash. She perishes in the accident and he is left incapacitated and incommunicado. He can't walk, has limited movement in one of his hands and can only blink to indicate yes/no. His mother-in-law, recently widowed, takes it upon herself to care for him since they are now both without any living family in the world. She has always demonstrated love and affection for him prior to the accident, giving full support to her daughter's marriage to Oghi. Now she hires a live-in caregiver and commits herself to supporting him on his long, arduous journey to recovery. How then, does this turn into a suspense, thriller novel?

This is a novel one has to read carefully. As the tale unfolds, we are given insight into Oghi's past and his relationship with his wife. While Stephen King's "Misery" was about a crazed fan, this is a much more nuanced story, touching on the unforeseen ramifications of past actions. The writing is straightforward and the length short. This made it an easy and reasonably intriguing read for me.

[Final rating: 3.5*]
Profile Image for richa.
850 reviews207 followers
May 31, 2021
I was so absorbed in the writing that I didn't realise it ended.
This is more of a revenge, psychological thriller book. It's sick, disgusting at times. It shows how a selfish man repents his wrong doings.
"To be human was to be saddled with emptiness."

It starts off with man waking up from coma, having a full paralysis and faint recollections of the accident that led him to there. He has lost his wife. He has no family except for his mother in law who soon much to the narrator's chagrin is the sole caretaker of his.
It also becomes clear that she is a bit ...unhinged.

"What my daughter couldn’t. What she meant to do. What she wanted to do. I have to do it for her. And I will. You know she was all I had.”

This book is a bit odd in a sense that it uses humiliation, recounting and intense writing to fuel the "thriller" parts. Definitely uses the less is more way to build up.
Profile Image for Renee Godding.
584 reviews558 followers
August 29, 2022
This one is probably on me for not looking into what this book really is about. Had I known that the abuse and mistreatment of a disabled man by his caregiver were so central to the plot, I wouldn’t have picked it up in the first place.
There was probably a point to it all, but a man’s “helplessness due to disability” being the axis around which a horror/thriller revolve, makes for something I DO NOT want to read.
Profile Image for Leo.
4,244 reviews383 followers
March 11, 2021
Can't decide wether or not I want to give it a 3.5 or a 4. So I'll say 3.7 for now. The hole is a short horror story but not extreme or gory. Rather quiet and slow but the creepyness slowly creeps in throughout the story. The horror is more based of the human fears, greif, loneliness and having to relay heavily on others. Oghi and his wife is in an car accident. His wife dies but he survived but with a lot of damage. He wakes up in a coma, unable to speak and can only answer yes or no by blinking. He recover slightly but need a lot of care so when he comes home from the hospital his wife's mother takes care of him and the garden. Digging big holes to finish what his wife started and the question is, why and what is it? Eery and silent but intense.
Profile Image for TraceyL.
988 reviews134 followers
November 13, 2020
Pretty boring for a horror novel. It's being promoted as a Korean take of Misery, but that's only true in the loosest of terms. The audiobook wasn't very well done either. There were lots of obvious cuts where the narrator had to redo some sections, and the audio quality on those parts was very poor.

The writing style felt very American to me, which was interesting. Usually I can tell that a book was translated by the sentence structure and rhythm. But I wouldn't have guessed the author was Korean if I didn't already know that going in.
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