Eugenia Kim comes to the blog today with an historic fiction, semi-autobiographical and centered on the choices and trials of emigration, assimilation and the choices one makes in difficult times in
The Kinship of Secrets
I think that in today’s climate of nationalization and fears of the different that emigration and immigrants are subject to a serious lack of understanding – both of the difficulties faced when leaving your home and the place you feel comfortable and have support to a new space full of the unknown: language, customs, pace of life and even an understanding of just who you are. Kim tackles this and many other issues in this book, providing a rich understanding to those willing to let the book consume them in ways unexpected. And I kid you not – this story will consume you as you see the difficult choices, the struggles on two sides of the world, and even the guilt, worry and attachments that never quite leave: that reference to ‘home’ being the place that was familiar and steeped in tradition, even as your feet are planted in the new.
Spanning the years from the late 1940’s until the mid 70’s, this is a story of difficult choices and plans delayed: first by war and later by laws and governments, separating two sisters by oceans and opportunities, while the guilt from those choices informs lives and creates a sort of remove that is never really investigated until much later. When Najin and Calvin Cho take their eldest daughter Miran and head for America, the land of opportunity, they are leaving behind a young Inja with family, planning to bring her to join them soon. A heartbreaking decision for any parent, and we see Najin’s struggle with the choices made as the story progresses, and the two girls grow up separately – always wondering about that ‘mysterious sister” from away who is responsible for packages with toys, food, treats and hope. Surely as the two girls grow, and Miran struggles with ‘fitting in’ and wondering about the ‘mystery sister’ that seems to consume her parents’ focus, with the war, the deprivations and immigration laws, bringing Inja to America, originally planned to happen within a year or two, becomes a wait of near interminable time, Inja is not joining the family until she is 15 and thoroughly unaware of this ‘American’ family, so familiar is she with the Uncle and Grandparents she was left with years earlier. These people are now strangers, with experiences that are vastly different and diverse: Miran is a suburban Asian-American, perhaps not quite fitting into those around her, but so very unlike the newly arrived Inja with her wholly Korean outlook and familiarity with the life, food and culture, even upended by war, that just cannot be replicated in America, no matter how much her parents may wish to hold tight to what was.
This book takes a reader on a ‘hear my story, understand that many things brought us here, and most aren’t instantly apparent’ sort of journey, with moments that are revelatory, others that are familiar and most wholly unfamiliar as the Cho’s navigate parenthood and life in a new country, then try to bring a child into a ‘crash course’ of what they’ve come to find is ‘normal’ from a very different place, right in the midst of her adolescence when the changes feel more a punishment than opportunity. With author notes that share this is a tale based in her own family history, and the clear presentation of the voices that share the known to everyone and the secrets, the story is gripping and provides readers with an understand that can, perhaps (I can only hope) allow them to see that emigration is never just a single, simple choice, or that the simple act of feet on the ground in the US doesn’t mean that everything else is simple, or clear. I’d encourage readers to pick up this book, full of emotion and choice, families and struggles, and a solid sense of cultural influences that inform the choices, beliefs and language use of the characters to great effect.
Title: The Kinship of Secrets
Author: Eugenia Kim
Genre: Assimilation, Family Saga, Historic Elements, Historical Fiction, Korean, Korean War Era
Published by: Houghton Miffllin/Harcourt
Published on: 6 November, 2018
Source: Publisher Via Edelweiss
Audio Length: 10 Hours: 34 minutes
Get Your Copy: Amazon ♦ Barnes&Noble ♦ iTunes ♦ Kobo ♦ Downpour ♦ IndieBound ♦ Google ♦Audible
From the author of The Calligrapher’s Daughter comes the riveting story of two sisters, one raised in the United States, the other in South Korea, and the family that bound them together even as the Korean War kept them apart.
In 1948 Najin and Calvin Cho, with their young daughter Miran, travel from South Korea to the United States in search of new opportunities. Wary of the challenges they know will face them, Najin and Calvin make the difficult decision to leave their other daughter, Inja, behind with their extended family; soon, they hope, they will return to her.
But then war breaks out in Korea, and there is no end in sight to the separation. Miran grows up in prosperous American suburbia, under the shadow of the daughter left behind, as Inja grapples in her war-torn land with ties to a family she doesn’t remember. Najin and Calvin desperately seek a reunion with Inja, but are the bonds of love strong enough to reconnect their family over distance, time, and war? And as deep family secrets are revealed, will everything they long for be upended?
Told through the alternating perspectives of the distanced sisters, and inspired by a true story, The Kinship of Secrets? explores the cruelty of war, the power of hope, and what it means to be a sister.
A copy of this title was provided via Publisher Via Edelweiss for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.