Hwang Sok-Yong, , trans. from the Korean by Kyung-Ja Chun and Maya West. . Seven Stories, $27.95 (237pp) ISBN 978-1-58322-693-3
Vivid snapshots from the Korean War and surreal encounters with ghosts intersect in this first major U.S. release by award-winning Korean novelist Sok-Yong. The result—threaded with gritty religious and political undertones—is an ambitious exploration of a postwar survivor's chaotic psyche. Rev. Ryu Yosop, an elderly minister living in New Jersey, is stalked by memories of the horrific 52-day massacre he witnessed 40 years ago in North Korea's Hwanghae Province, where his older brother Yohan played a leading role in the carnage. To confront his past, Yosop returns to his hometown of Ch'ansaemgol for the first time since he immigrated to America 20 years earlier. Drifting between the past and the present, among the living and the dead, Yosop yearns to appease and exorcise the spirits that haunt him. Yosop's struggle becomes truly gripping as he reunites with long-lost family members in North Korea. Chaperoned by Communist Party members who resolutely blame past atrocities on the American military, Yosop remembers all too well that it was his own Christian and Communist neighbors who committed the bloodshed. Though the time-traveling prose takes some getting used to, Sok-Yong eloquently chronicles Yosop's odyssey through guilt, fear, faith and forgiveness.
Reviewed on: 08/29/2005