cover image Wafers


Ha Seong-nan, trans. from the Korean by Janet Hong. Open Letter, $17.95 trade paper (350p) ISBN 978-1-948830-98-0

In Ha’s impressive and suspenseful collection, contemporary South Koreans contend with loss, the unreliability of memory, and the lingering effects of past traumas. In “House of Wafers,” a recently single woman returns to the ramshackle house she grew up in and begins a relationship with a longtime neighbor. The protagonist of “Shadow Child” lost his memory in an accident and lives in a sanitarium. Instead of regaining his memories thanks to visits from his family, he finds himself drawn to an abandoned bicycle with a child’s seat, visible from his window. In the affecting “Daytime to Daytime,” a woman travels to Switzerland to claim her husband’s body after his fatal fall from a hotel window; aided by a male colleague who’s in love with her, she reads her husband’s journal and retraces his final steps. The woman running away from her life in “Button” has kidnapped a close friend’s young child; the friend may have had an affair with the woman’s husband. Throughout, Ha secures the reader’s investment by gradually revealing her characters’ motivations and backstories as the scope of their often-irresolvable predicaments comes into focus. Seldom optimistic yet always arresting, this collection is not to be missed. (Mar.)