Posted in Cultural, Fiction, General Fiction, Historical Fiction, Korea, Multi-Cultural Fiction

The Kinship of Secrets by Eugenia Kim

Publicaton Info: November 6th 2018 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Pre-pub Kindle edition courtesy of Eidelweiss+ by Above the Treeline.

Summary: Four-year-old Inja lives with her uncle, aunt, grandparents and a small household staff in Korea. Rumors of an invasion, of impending war, swirl around. Her Uncle is concerned and follows the news and — the much more accurate — rumors closely. But Inja’s head is full of dreamy visions of her mysterious family in America. Inja knows she has a mother, father and a sister who live far away. They regularly send her packages with toys, food and clothing. She has heard all her life that someday she will go live with her family in America, but there is always another reason for a delay.The Kinship of Secrets

Nearly five-year-old Miran lives with her parents in America. Her father, Calvin, works as Korean translator and does Voice of America broadcasts. He is also a minister at the Korean church. Her mother, Najin, doesn’t speak English well, so Miran communicates for her when they run errands. She helps her mother assemble and mail the boxes to her mysterious “sister in Korea”.

The novel continues in alternating chapters about the lives of both families. Inja grows up in war-torn Korea in a loving, but impoverished home. Miran’s family lives in typical post-WWII middle-class America. On the surface, the lives of the two girls have little in common. But as Inja matures and learns more about her family’s hidden history, she realizes that sometimes secrets don’t tear people apart; sometimes they are a powerful force that can bind people together.

Comments: Overall, I liked this book and enjoyed reading it. At first, I found the writing and observations to be simplistic, but the story’s voice matured as the main narrator, Inja, did. The novel spans several decades and sometimes short-changes periods in the character’s lives. I realize this was done to keep the book to a manageable length, but it just felt awkward.

The real depth of the book, obviously the most emotional part for the author, comes toward the end of the story and in the author’s notes. These sections bumped the book up a few notches for me. The author draws inspiration for The Kinship of Secrets from her own family.

Recommended for readers of general, multi-cultural and historical fiction.

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