cover image I’ll Be Right There

I’ll Be Right There

Kyung-Sook Shin, trans. from the Korean by Sora Kim-Russell. Other Press, $15.95 trade paper (336p) ISBN 978-1-59051-673-7

Tension and sadness are the prevailing emotions affecting the four major characters in this moving novel from Shin, author of the bestselling Please Look After Mom. Set in politically turbulent 1980s South Korea, the plot follows two young couples. They belong to a generation that is bitterly disillusioned and despairing of the future. The narrator, Jung Yoon, is mourning her mother’s death when she leaves her rural home to attend college. She is feeling alienated when she meets Myungsuh and Miru, a couple drawn into the student protests against South Korea’s military government. Mired in anomie, Jung is unable to return the love of her childhood friend, Dahn, an aspiring artist, who reaches out to her during his grueling experience as an army recruit. As a counterweight to this downbeat mood, Shin describes Jung’s beloved Professor Yoon, who inspires his students, urging them not to “write a single sentence that abets violence.” Shin can suggest profound implications in restrained detail, and though the story ends in tragedy, her frequent references to both Eastern and Western literature testify to the duty to hope and to survive. (June)