cover image Welcome to the Hyunam-Dong Bookshop

Welcome to the Hyunam-Dong Bookshop

Hwang Bo-Reum, trans. from the Korean by Shanna Tan. Bloomsbury, $28.99 (320p) ISBN 978-1-63973-242-5

A bestseller in South Korea, Bo-Reum’s English-language debut is a tranquil if meandering slice of life. Yeongju leaves behind a high-pressure job to open a bookstore with a coffee bar in a residential neighborhood in Seoul. Though the store is her dream come true, she spends the first few months struggling to overcome her lingering anxiety, and slips into a reading slump. Once she comes out of her funk, she bonds with the people who find their way to the store. Among them are her barista Minjun, who’s obsessed with brewing the perfect cup, and Jimi, the coffee roaster who mentors him. Mincheol, an unmotivated student, gains a newfound interest in reading from Yeongju’s recommendations. As Yeongju continues opening up to others, she helpes promote the store by writing a book review column and running a seminar. Though some characters and relationships evolve, the novel is structured primarily as a series of vignettes (an interview with an author; a book club discussion). Despite the lack of a cohesive plot or linear character development, the prolonged philosophical considerations of reading, community, happiness, and the meaning of work offer moments of reflection and observation. Bo-Reum pleasantly evokes the feeling of spending an afternoon in a favorite bookstore. (Feb.)