"This wonderful hybrid of a novel--a love story, a war story, a novel of manners--introduces a writer of enchanting gifts, a beautiful heart wedded to a beautiful imagination. How else does Susan Choi so fully inhabit characters from disparate backgrounds, with such brilliant wit and insight? The Foreign Student stirs up great and lovely emotions." — Francisco Goldman, author of The Ordinary Seaman
The Foreign Student is the story of a young Korean man, scarred by war, and the deeply troubled daughter of a wealthy Southern American family. In 1955, a new student arrives at a small college in the Tennessee mountains. Chuck is shy, speaks English haltingly, and on the subject of his earlier life in Korea he will not speak at all. Then he meets Katherine, a beautiful and solitary young woman who, like Chuck, is haunted by some dark episode in her past. Without quite knowing why, these two outsiders are drawn together, each sensing in the other the possibility of salvation. Moving between the American South and South Korea, between an adolescent girl's sexual awakening and a young man's nightmarish memories of war, The Foreign Student is a powerful and emotionally gripping work of fiction.
Love develops between two troubled people from vastly different worlds in this impressive debut. In 1955, traumatized Korean refugee Chang, or Chuck, as he is renamed by an American soldier, arrives at college in Sewanee, Tenn. Haunted by his war experiences, he lives in seclusion until he meets Katherine Monroe, a New Orleans heiress. Estranged from her family, Katherine, too, is mired in the past, having begun an affair at age 14 with an English professor nearly 30 years her senior. As their unlikely friendship develops, the two are sexually drawn to each other and enter into a brief but passionate affair. Choi evokes the terrain of the Tennessee mountains with a cinematic touch. She also displays a keen eye for the courtly manners of a small Southern town. But it is in her beautifully detailed evocation of the rich, albeit scarred emotional landscapes of her characters that she is at her best--grave, clear-eyed and artless. Indeed, the paths that bring Chuck and Katherine together are more convincingly traced than their eventual relationship, which at times seems somewhat contrived, the one weakness in a work full of ambition and considerable talent.