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PATTERNS OF THE HEART

AND OTHER STORIES

A debut by a modernist prose master more than 50 years in the making—and well worth the wait.

A collection of poignant portraits of Korean lives during a tumultuous century.

“When would the day arrive when he didn’t feel like howling in sadness?” That’s the bleak situation facing Sangjin, a writer who’s fled to the Korean countryside to wait out the end of World War II in Ch’oe’s luminous collection of stories. In the war’s final months, Japan’s defeat is expected, but what will happen after Japan’s 35-year-long occupation of Korea is over? Sangjin ponders the future and “could no longer see through the darkness to the next moment even,” Ch’oe writes in “The Barley Hump.” Translated by Poole, this collection’s publication is a major event—Ch’oe’s first appearance in English. It’s stunning to think Anglophone readers have waited some 50 years since his death to read stories of Korean society struggling under the twin traumas of Japan’s occupation and the disastrous Korean War. A longtime resident of Pyongyang, Ch’oe was an incisive chronicler of the overlooked and the marginalized, of characters whose private struggles mirrored the conflicts taking place in their world. In “Walking in the Rain,” which first brought him acclaim in 1936, the friendship between a frustrated office boy with artistic aspirations and a status-obsessed photographer reflects the clash in values between those seeking money and those with more aesthetic pursuits. Elsewhere, generational and political conflicts erupt in the difficult relationship between a dying man and his intellectual son in “A Man of No Character,” and “Patterns of the Heart” presents a harrowing portrait of a revolutionary who has given up fighting colonial oppression and succumbed to opium addiction. While any historian interested in a glimpse of Korean life would benefit from reading these stories, treating them as mere documentation undervalues Ch’oe’s literary talents. His spare, lean style and ability to capture deep pathos are as evocative as Hemingway and feel strikingly contemporary. Though little is known about him, Poole says Ch’oe enjoyed some favor in the country’s north and south but his life was upended (like everyone’s) with the war’s outbreak in 1950. What we know about his final years is vague and sad. Poole says establishing authoritative versions of the stories was complicated by Cold War censorship, but readers will be grateful for her effort.

A debut by a modernist prose master more than 50 years in the making—and well worth the wait.

Pub Date: April 9, 2024

ISBN: 9780231202718

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Columbia Univ.

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2024

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  • New York Times Bestseller

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LONG ISLAND

A moving portrait of rueful middle age and the failure to connect.

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  • New York Times Bestseller

An acclaimed novelist revisits the central characters of his best-known work.

At the end of Brooklyn (2009), Eilis Lacey departed Ireland for the second and final time—headed back to New York and the Italian American husband she had secretly married after first traveling there for work. In her hometown of Enniscorthy, she left behind Jim Farrell, a young man she’d fallen in love with during her visit, and the inevitable gossip about her conduct. Tóibín’s 11th novel introduces readers to Eilis 20 years later, in 1976, still married to Tony Fiorello and living in the titular suburbia with their two teenage children. But Eilis’ seemingly placid existence is disturbed when a stranger confronts her, accusing Tony of having an affair with his wife—now pregnant—and threatening to leave the baby on their doorstep. “She’d known men like this in Ireland,” Tóibín writes. “Should one of them discover that their wife had been unfaithful and was pregnant as a result, they would not have the baby in the house.” This shock sends Eilis back to Enniscorthy for a visit—or perhaps a longer stay. (Eilis’ motives are as inscrutable as ever, even to herself.) She finds the never-married Jim managing his late father’s pub; unbeknownst to Eilis (and the town), he’s become involved with her widowed friend Nancy, who struggles to maintain the family chip shop. Eilis herself appears different to her old friends: “Something had happened to her in America,” Nancy concludes. Although the novel begins with a soap-operatic confrontation—and ends with a dramatic denouement, as Eilis’ fate is determined in a plot twist worthy of Edith Wharton—the author is a master of quiet, restrained prose, calmly observing the mores and mindsets of provincial Ireland, not much changed from the 1950s.

A moving portrait of rueful middle age and the failure to connect.

Pub Date: May 7, 2024

ISBN: 9781476785110

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2024

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ALL FOURS

This tender, strange treatise on getting out from the “prefab structures” of a conventional life is quintessentially July.

A woman set to embark on a cross-country road trip instead drives to a nearby motel and becomes obsessed with a local man.

According to Harris, the husband of the narrator of July’s novel, everyone in life is either a Parker or a Driver. “Drivers,” Harris says, “are able to maintain awareness and engagement even when life is boring.” The narrator knows she’s a Parker, someone who needs “a discrete task that seems impossible, something…for which they might receive applause.” For the narrator, a “semi-famous” bisexual woman in her mid-40s living in Los Angeles, this task is her art; it’s only by haphazard chance that she’s fallen into a traditional straight marriage and motherhood. When the narrator needs to be in New York for work, she decides on a solo road trip as a way of forcing herself to be more of a metaphorical Driver. She makes it all of 30 minutes when, for reasons she doesn’t quite understand, she pulls over in Monrovia. After encountering a man who wipes her windows at a gas station and then chats with her at the local diner, she checks in to a motel, where she begins an all-consuming intimacy with him. For the first time in her life, she feels truly present. But she can only pretend to travel so long before she must go home and figure out how to live the rest of a life that she—that any woman in midlife—has no map for. July’s novel is a characteristically witty, startlingly intimate take on Dante’s “In the middle of life’s journey, I found myself in a dark wood”—if the dark wood were the WebMD site for menopause and a cheap room at the Excelsior Motel.

This tender, strange treatise on getting out from the “prefab structures” of a conventional life is quintessentially July.

Pub Date: May 14, 2024

ISBN: 9780593190265

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2024

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