Lee writes with a clarity and simplicity of style that discloses deep and conflicting emotions about cultural identity.

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DRIFTING HOUSE

Affecting stories about the conflicts between Korean and American culture.

Lee tends to focus on domestic relationships, the tensions—sometimes unbridgeable—between husband and wife, between parent and child. In the opening story, “A Temporary Marriage,” Mrs. Shin saves money to travel from Seoul to southern California to find her daughter Yuri, who she feels has been “kidnapped” and spirited away to America by her ex-husband. In the suburbs of Los Angeles she shares a home with Mr. Rhee, a stranger but fellow-countryman, and fears he might have romantic designs on her. Desperate to locate her daughter, Mrs. Shin hires a detective, Mr. Pak, who eventually locates Yuri, only to find that her daughter has essentially forgotten her, poisoned by the bitterness of her ex-husband as well as by the cultural divide between Korea and the U.S. In “The Pastor’s Son,” a woman makes her husband, Pastor Ryu, promise to marry her old childhood friend, Hyeseon Min, after she dies. The pastor and Hyeseon travel from California back to Seoul for a traditional Korean wedding, but the pastor’s new wife is distressed to discover this marriage of convenience involves no love on the part of the pastor. The heartbreaking “The Salaryman” presents the depressed economic conditions in Korea following the economic bust of 1997. Lee traces the misfortunes of Mr. Seo, who loses his job and then his wife and family. He winds up on the street with a sign around his neck, begging for food and fighting off other “beggars.” “At the Edge of the World” focuses on the split identity of Myeongseok Lee, a prodigy who goes by his Korean name at home and by “Mark” at school.

Lee writes with a clarity and simplicity of style that discloses deep and conflicting emotions about cultural identity.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-670-02325-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2011

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THE THINGS THEY CARRIED

It's being called a novel, but it is more a hybrid: short-stories/essays/confessions about the Vietnam War—the subject that O'Brien reasonably comes back to with every book. Some of these stories/memoirs are very good in their starkness and factualness: the title piece, about what a foot soldier actually has on him (weights included) at any given time, lends a palpability that makes the emotional freight (fear, horror, guilt) correspond superbly. Maybe the most moving piece here is "On The Rainy River," about a draftee's ambivalence about going, and how he decided to go: "I would go to war—I would kill and maybe die—because I was embarrassed not to." But so much else is so structurally coy that real effects are muted and disadvantaged: O'Brien is writing a book more about earnestness than about war, and the peekaboos of this isn't really me but of course it truly is serve no true purpose. They make this an annoyingly arty book, hiding more than not behind Hemingwayesque time-signatures and puerile repetitions about war (and memory and everything else, for that matter) being hell and heaven both. A disappointment.

Pub Date: March 28, 1990

ISBN: 0618706410

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1990

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Visionary speculative stories that will change the way readers see themselves and the world around them: This book delivers...

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EXHALATION

Exploring humankind's place in the universe and the nature of humanity, many of the stories in this stellar collection focus on how technological advances can impact humanity’s evolutionary journey.

Chiang's (Stories of Your Life and Others, 2002) second collection begins with an instant classic, “The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate,” which won Hugo and Nebula awards for Best Novelette in 2008. A time-travel fantasy set largely in ancient Baghdad, the story follows fabric merchant Fuwaad ibn Abbas after he meets an alchemist who has crafted what is essentially a time portal. After hearing life-changing stories about others who have used the portal, he decides to go back in time to try to right a terrible wrong—and realizes, too late, that nothing can erase the past. Other standout selections include “The Lifecycle of Software Objects,” a story about a software tester who, over the course of a decade, struggles to keep a sentient digital entity alive; “The Great Silence,” which brilliantly questions the theory that humankind is the only intelligent race in the universe; and “Dacey’s Patent Automatic Nanny,” which chronicles the consequences of machines raising human children. But arguably the most profound story is "Exhalation" (which won the 2009 Hugo Award for Best Short Story), a heart-rending message and warning from a scientist of a highly advanced, but now extinct, race of mechanical beings from another universe. Although the being theorizes that all life will die when the universes reach “equilibrium,” its parting advice will resonate with everyone: “Contemplate the marvel that is existence, and rejoice that you are able to do so.”

Visionary speculative stories that will change the way readers see themselves and the world around them: This book delivers in a big way.

Pub Date: May 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-101-94788-3

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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