An unflinching portrayal of the Korean immigrant experience from an extraordinary new talent in fiction.
Spanning Korea and the United States, from the postwar era to contemporary times, Krys Lee's stunning fiction debut, Drifting House, illuminates a people torn between the traumas of their collective past and the indignities and sorrows of their present.
In the title story, children escaping famine in North Korea are forced to make unthinkable sacrifices to survive. The tales set in America reveal the immigrants' unmoored existence, playing out in cramped apartments and Koreatown strip malls. A makeshift family is fractured when a shaman from the old country moves in next door. An abandoned wife enters into a fake marriage in order to find her kidnapped daughter.
In the tradition of Chang-rae Lee's Native Speaker and Jhumpa Lahiri's Interpreter of Maladies, Drifting House is an unforgettable work by a gifted new writer.
In this sublime debut collection spanning both Koreas and America, protagonists locked in by oppressive social forces struggle to break free in original ways, each unexpected denouement a minor miracle ("The Goose Father") or a perfect tragedy ("Drifting House"). In "A Small Sorrow," Seongwon, the wife of a famous painter, herself an artist, tracks down her husband's latest lover (a character who appears as a young girl in a later story, "Beautiful Women") to explore her own attraction and reinvent herself appropriately. Seeing Mina up close for the first time, Seongwon notes: "Her face, bright and alert, diminished the garden's gingko trees and surrounding mountains into a mere landscape." The author's imaginative metaphors and easy rhythmic variances are unerring, carrying the reader effortlessly. In "The Pastor's Son," New Mother, the aging second wife of a widower, crushed by her clergyman husband's abuse, "weaved out of the hall, her face volcanic with misery." In "The Goose Father," a poet-turned-accountant falls in love with a young thespian who believes a lame goose is his dead mother. After nearly kissing the boy's tendered lips, Gilho slaps his prot g instead, and "Wuseong staggered backward, his hand cupping his cheek. Gilho's chest tightened like the beginning of a heart attack. A terrible loneliness spiked through him as he looked at the boy." The limpid, naturalistic prose and the flawless internal logic of these stories are reminiscent of the best of Katherine Anne Porter and Carson McCullers.