LONG FOR THIS WORLD – “One must focus on the tiny actions that make up the events of one’s life.”

March 8, 2010

Thought Provoking

Long for This World

by Sonya Chung

from Scribner, 270 pages, $16.50


      Let me be upfront with you, this is a beautifully written story that takes concentration. It is layered both in subject matter and in emotion. It’s one where you dog-ear the “Main List of Characters” at the beginning of the book and return to it often. Sections of chapters not only change setting, but sometimes countries and time periodS. At first I found this complexity a fault, wished the author had spared me her pointillist approach, but then about half-way through the parallel lines start to intersect and like a masterful poem it is not longer someone else’s story, it is our own…  

     As a Westerner (who has been to Korea) there is a tendency to think of the East in a feng shui kind of way. As Sonya Chung says of Han Jung-joo, one if the troubled women in Korea whose husband is a prosperous  doctor  and whose troubled daughter dies while pregnant, “One must focus on the tiny actions that make up the events of one’s life. .. If one tends to the small things, the larger things fall beautifully into place; order is created and maintained.” Except that it doesn’t happen like that, at least in the way we expect it will. Another surprise is that the author does an equally good job with understanding the males of the story as with the females, the young and the old (though the interchange between the American, Ah-jin and the daughter of her mentor concerning  mothers and daughters occasioned by a photograph of a young Kenyan girl who’d undergone female genital mutilation is exquisite. Such dynamics are the heart and soul of this book which isn’t afraid to ask questions like, what is home, family, love, and gives us the courage to ask them of our own experiences.

     And the conclusion we draw, probably not much different than Ah-jin during another interchange, this time with her brother who is an alcoholic drop-out, “Most of life is pretty damn boring, you know. The music doesn’t always crescendo when bad things happen. Shit goes down. People survive.”  But there is the sharing of it together that makes a difference.  As the female photographer does with her relatives, as this author does with us. 

Buy this book directly from amazon for  $16.50. Click here: Long for This World: A Novel


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