Bob's Reviews > One Thousand Chestnut Trees

One Thousand Chestnut Trees by Mira Stout
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's review
Dec 04, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: novel

This book was fabulous. After about 15 years of studying the Korean art of Tae Kwon Do and learning a little about the history of Korea from my instructors, this novel really filled in the blanks for me.

And, what a story this is. The protagonist, Anna,is half Irish and half Korean. Growing up in New England, she was subject to bullying and teasing because of her race. She struggled to "lose" her Korean identity and blend in with the White New England population as much as she could. Her fair skin and no-so almond shaped eye helped.

Cut to her adolescent years - Anna's Uncle Hong-do visits from Korea. She makes little attempt to connect with him and after a while, he leaves to return to Korea after a failed business venture. Anna realizes that she missed a great opportunity to grow close to her Uncle and learn about her history.

As a young adult, on her own as a starving artist working in a book store in New York City, she encounters tough times. She has trouble making ends meet, and the book store ends up closing. She takes this as an opportunity to visit Korea to learn about her mother's family's past.

Over the next few months, Anna takes a journey from the southern tip of the country, to the northern border (the 38th parallel). She meets her cousins, her aunts and uncles. She learns of the death of her grandparents and other family members. Most of all, she allows herself to become a different person, having become more close to her Korean roots.

The story is told through a present day narrative with a series of flashbacks to other times. The reader not only follows the story, but learns about the past 100 years of Korean history, moving from the horrors of the Japanese occupation to the split of the into the North and the South and the terrible war that ensued, through the modernization of Korea into a Westernized country that maintains its own unique Eastern identity and traditions.

On its own, this is a very enjoyable book. The fact that I learned something while reading it was a real unexepected bonus.

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Reading Progress

December 4, 2011 – Shelved
December 28, 2011 – Started Reading
December 28, 2011 –
page 32
December 29, 2011 –
page 59
December 30, 2011 –
page 91
December 30, 2011 –
page 111
January 1, 2012 –
page 154
January 3, 2012 –
page 259
January 5, 2012 –
page 319
January 5, 2012 – Finished Reading
February 24, 2012 – Shelved as: novel

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