STATUS UPDATE: I have returned, safe and sound, back to America. But that does not mean, I am going to stop posting. I have so much to tell you about my time in South Korea. Due to assignments and just plain busyness, posting will obviously be a little late. However, I have posts planned out and I just have to write them. Stay tuned.
While in South Korea, I got the wonderful opportunity to meet the translator of I’ll Be Right There by Kyung-sook Shin, Sora Kim-Russell. The interview was both inspiring and insightful. I’ll be posting the interview soon. However, here’s my review of I’ll Be Right There by Kyung-sook Shin.
I’ll Be Right There by Kyung-sook Shin
Publisher: Other Press
Publication Date: June 3, 2014
Buy It: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
How friendship, European literature, and a charismatic professor defy war, oppression, and the absurd Set in 1980s South Korea amid the tremors of political revolution, I’ll Be Right There follows Jung Yoon, a highly literate, twenty-something woman, as she recounts her tragic personal history as well as those of her three intimate college friends. When Yoon receives a distressing phone call from her ex-boyfriend after eight years of separation, memories of a tumultuous youth begin to resurface, forcing her to re-live the most intense period of her life. With profound intellectual and emotional insight, she revisits the death of her beloved mother, the strong bond with her now-dying former college professor, the excitement of her first love, and the friendships forged out of a shared sense of isolation and grief. Yoon’s formative experiences, which highlight both the fragility and force of personal connection in an era of absolute uncertainty, become immediately palpable. Shin makes the foreign and esoteric utterly familiar: her use of European literature as an interpreter of emotion and experience bridges any gaps between East and West. Love, friendship, and solitude are the same everywhere, as this book makes poignantly clear.–Goodreads
In all honesty, this book review is very difficult to write. This book is something I need to get out on paper, something that I just need to explain because… feelings. It’s the type of book I want to leave behind another book on my shelf, pretend it was unread so when I return to it, I will relive the same emotions I feel now. I don’t know how to explain it but this book has taken me on a rollercoaster and still stuck high in the sky. The book was pure genius, pure awesome-ness (and I don’t mean that slang term that everyone uses- I’m talking actual AWE!). Let me explain.
I cannot explain this book with a mere summary because that simple paragraph would not suffice. I’ll Be Right There is about life and not just the fictional life of the character, Jung Yoon, but of my life and of your life, and everyone’s life and how we are entwined into the world’s life. For a lack of a better quote, “We are all in this together” (High School Musical -no one is ever to old for that). I finished this book late at night, when the rest of the house was asleep, and was surprised to find my cheeks wet with tears. Seriously, I don’t cry while reading or while watching films. I rarely cry at all, in fact. There was something about this book that made me weep. Something about its truthfulness that touched me so much so that I cried.
Without giving too much away, I want to bring your attention to the title.
I’ll Be Right There is translated from Korean by Sora Kim-Russell, who I had the wonderful chance of meeting while in Korea. The interview I had with her should be posted soon. Translated work is always similar and at the same time different. Sora Kim-Russell did a grand job with this work. Kyung-sook Shin’s voice, best known for Please Look After Mom, also shined through the translation. The collaboration between author and translator worked very well to bring together the English version.
I’ll Be Right There
. The outstanding title for the outstanding book. Talk of the title is mentioned briefly in the novel. With whom can you say the words of the title to someone and have it be the truth? And as time passes, will that person remain the same or will there come a time that you saying those words not mean anything at all? The title itself personifies the whole book (personifies is not the best word but I’m trying to explain what Shin has done here so cleverly). Kyung-sook Shin is telling her readers how gentle life can be, how powerful and meaningful, and how rough and sad life can be as well.
For graduating high school students and college students, the go-to book is Oh, the Places You’ll Go
by Dr. Seuss. Seuss tells us with the title: if you can dream it, you can do it. Instead of getting a graduate that book, gift them I’ll Be Right There
. It makes readers ask the important questions and keep asking, long after the novel is over.
While I was in South Korea, I connected with the protagonist as if we were the same person- that’s how close I related to her. Jung Yoon, a college student, tries to find her path in a sea of roads that could lead anywhere. Even after the initial relationship between reader and character, I decided to follow some of her adventure. In the beginning of the book, Yoon describes her walks in the city– I followed her footsteps among many landmarks around Seoul, South Korea. Even if you do not have access to Seoul, South Korea (to take walks and try on Jung Yoon’s shoes), the character still proves to be relatable with her inner thoughts bubbling to the surface of the page.
The ending was hard to believe. Not that it was unbelievable, but just that it was difficult to face as truth. I wanted to be a child, stamp my foot, and swiftly shake my head. I wanted an adult to nudge my shoulder and say with a sigh, “Well, that’s how it is. That’s life.” I’m still trying to admit that Kyung-sook Shin left it at that. The ending was not disappointing. The ending was just how it was supposed to end. That is how it is.
I’ll Be Right There by Kyung-sook Shin is a fantastic work of art which immersed me in its mesmerizing grasp with its poetic writing, life-like characters, and reality-check plot. It is most definitely worth picking up.
Writing Style: 5