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Wednesday, November 28, 2018

REVIEW: The Kinship of Secrets by Eugenia Kim @HMHCo @Eugenia_Kim

The Kinship of Secrets
by Eugenia Kim

Thank you to Houghton Miffling Harcourt for this amazing story.

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publish Date: November 6, 2018
304 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction

From the author of The Calligrapher’s Daughter comes the riveting story of two sisters, one raised in the United States, the other in South Korea, and the family that bound them together even as the Korean War kept them apart.

In 1948 Najin and Calvin Cho, with their young daughter Miran, travel from South Korea to the United States in search of new opportunities. Wary of the challenges they know will face them, Najin and Calvin make the difficult decision to leave their other daughter, Inja, behind with their extended family; soon, they hope, they will return to her.

But then war breaks out in Korea, and there is no end in sight to the separation. Miran grows up in prosperous American suburbia, under the shadow of the daughter left behind, as Inja grapples in her war-torn land with ties to a family she doesn’t remember. Najin and Calvin desperately seek a reunion with Inja, but are the bonds of love strong enough to reconnect their family over distance, time, and war? And as deep family secrets are revealed, will everything they long for be upended?

Told through the alternating perspectives of the distanced sisters, and inspired by a true story, The Kinship of Secrets?explores the cruelty of war, the power of hope, and what it means to be a sister.

My Review:

Totally going out of my normal reads, when offered the opportunity to read this book, I just couldn't say no.  I don't read historical fiction very often but this one that deals with my Korean culture stood out and I'm so glad that I picked this up.

I'll say again how important it is to read the author's note at the end.  I was fascinated to find that the story for this novel derives from the author's family life, especially her sister's, which made the story so much more impactful for me.  As a half-Korean woman, I have heard stories and have learned a lot about my culture.  I couldn't imagine being split up from a sister so long that she is just a stranger to me, and then having a reunion with her and the intricacies of how that relationship ebbs and flows. This reminded me (very) slightly of me and my cousin. We're both only children but grew up together in the same household for years. My dad sponsored my aunt, uncle and cousin to the US and she is older but had very limited English.  It was definitely something to get used to - having someone you now have to share a room with, be compared to... teach and yet still learn from.

As I was reading, I found myself wondering how someone who doesn't know the English language would read the Korean words - even though they're written in "English", the pronunciation would be different for those who know, have heard or have never learned.  I heard them loud and clear in my various family members' voices during my read.

Overall I really liked this book and it really spoke to me.  The characters, especially the sisters, are given to us in detail and you really get a sense of what these girls (and their families) are going through.  For me personally, I may have needed a little more *something* for this to really resonate and shine.  However, I think that just stems from my typically not enjoying this genre because of too much of a history lesson over a story line. 

Anyone who wants a heartfelt story of two Korean girls split up between Korea and the US and their individual plights will surely adore this novel.


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