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Football is the central metaphor for how a Korean family confronts life, death, and assimilation in this gritty and moving novel by Lee (Saying Goodbye, 1994, etc.). Leaving behind a successful grocery store in Los Angeles, the Kims move to Minnesota to rescue the store owned by the father's no-good, drug-dealing brother, Bong. Readers will identify the laconic and pained narrator, Chan, and his twin sister, Young, as different from each other as their former city's cultural diversity is from the relative homogeneity of their new small town. The family encounters prejudice from hostile provincials, as well as a welcome from their open-hearted landlady, Mrs. Knutson. Lee creates a tangible sense of what it means to work hard: The Kims struggle to make their new store succeed, going without furniture and embracing Minnesota hotdish. Tragedy comes when Young is killed in a car accident; reeling from the loss, Chan confronts the xenophobic bullies on the football team and reaches an understanding with his old-world father. Both points could have been reached without the death of Young, which seems a forced, unnecessary, and easy plot development. Lee's talent for dramatically depicting the pain and tragedy in living, for showing that every day is a battle, is subordinated by the facile scenes surrounding Young's death. Yet even if the lessons are not as precisely realized as those in Lee's previous books, this is still a strong and intelligent novel.

Pub Date: Nov. 30th, 1996
ISBN: 0064471691
Page count: 238pp
Publisher: HarperCollins