cover image The Stone Home

The Stone Home

Crystal Hana Kim. Morrow, $30 (352p) ISBN 978-0-06-331097-1

Kim’s riveting sophomore novel (after If You Leave Me) begins in 2011 with 40-something Eunju Oh receiving an unexpected visitor at her apartment in Daegu, South Korea. Narae, a 30-year-old Korean American woman raised in New York City by Eunju’s recently deceased childhood enemy, Sangchul Kim, has come in search of the truth about her familial origins. What follows is an account from both teenaged Eunju’s and Sangchul’s perspectives of their year in the Stone House three decades earlier. Billed by the government as a rehabilitation center for wayward youth and women, the Stone House instead operated as a forced-labor camp where innocent civilians kidnapped by the police were enslaved under grueling conditions. The hair-raising narrative chronicles Eunju’s time in the camp’s kitchen with her mother and a disparate group of women who came to care for one another. Her first run-in with Sangchul occurs at a camp picnic, and they become friends after Eunju is chosen to work with Sangchul and some other boys to thread fishhooks. As Eunju recounts to Narae, Sangchul became a brutal enforcer for the camp’s sadistic leaders. Through the suspenseful and nuanced frame narrative, Eunju unearths the full story behind Sangchul’s chilling betrayal and reveals the truth about Narae’s birth mother. Kim generates empathy for all the characters by showing the anguish and desperation that drive their harrowing deeds. This confirms Kim’s reputation as a formidable talent. (Apr.)