Thursday, March 10, 2016

G678 Book Review of A Good Family by Seo Hajin

General Information:

Name of Book: Chakhan Gajok/A Good Family

ISBN: 978 1 62897 118 7

Publisher: Dalkey Archive

Year it was published: 2008 (translated in 2015)


This collection of eight stories cynical and sympathetic by turns represents the author's attempt to document and understand the conflicts, resentments, hatreds, and anxieties of contemporary family life. The title story depicts a mother's busy day playing numerous roles ashamed, fearless, or humble depending on which member of her family she's tending to. In "The Privacy of My Father," a daughter tracks her father to Hong Kong in order to spy on what she thinks is an illicit affair. All in all, says Seo Hajin, family means deception--but these masks aren't so easily removed."

Author: Seo Hajin (Translated by Amy C Smith and Ally H Hwang)

About the Author:

Seo Hajin
She was born in 1961 in Youngcheon, North Kyungsang Province. She studied Korean literature at Kyunghee University in Seoul, Korea, and is currently an assistant professor of Korean literature at the same school. Her story "Tidal Path" was shortlisted for the Yi Sang Literature Award.

Amy C Smith and Ally H Hwang
They have together translated two collections of Seo Hajin's short stories. Smith is an Associate Professor fo English at Lamar University (TSUS) and Hwang is currently completing a book on Virginia Wolf.

1. What Grows Out of Sadness

One Sentence Summary:

A woman by the name of Hee-sook and her husband have a normal and ordinary relationship until the day Hee-sook learns of tragic news which causes a lot of shifts and changes in her relationships with her family and friends.

2. Dad's Private Life

One Sentence Summary:

In a first person narrative, a young woman begins to suspect that her father is cheating on her mother. One day the father travels to Hong Kong to meet his mistress, and the young woman with a friend follows him and reflects on the relationship between them.

3. A Good Family

One Sentence Summary:

This story tells of a woman's day from morning to evening as she deals with various family members; first that of her son's issues, then her husband's issues and last but not least her daughter's issues.

4. Where Is Everyone Going?

One Sentence Summary:

M is a doctor is described as insolent. One day he gets into a car accident and learns that he might be suffering from cancer and scheduled the operation to get rid of it. While that is going on, his wife and family and friends are trying to learn how to deal with the possible diagnosis.

5. The Interview

One Sentence Summary:
Manja is a writer who has a pen name of Hye-Young Yi. One day she is asked to interview another author by the name of Yeon-sook Kim and throughout the interview, Manja reflects on her own writing as well as the author's writings, their emotions on being writers and the quick friendship the two have struck.

6. Sugar or Salt

One Sentence Summary:

In a first person narrative, a woman named H is meeting a friend, K who has recently married a foreigner in a Catholic church in America. Along with hanging out with K, the narrator begins to recount her family life and listens to stories about K's family back in Korea, in particular K's relationship with her mother and about K's former marriage, which causes her to remember less than fond memories of the past.

7. Who Are You?

One Sentence Summary:

A woman whose a writer goes to a bookstore where she learns the bookstore will be closed and the building demolished. As the story goes on further, the woman begins to narrate her feelings and experiences of being a writer and of everyone thinking she writes TV Dramas as well as the relationship she shares with a man named K.

8. The Little Thing

One Sentence Summary:

From Min's point of view, a mysterious document was posted online by a woman named Young-joo Yi who accuses several men of sexual harassment, in particular the Director Min-ho Shin. The men are trying to figure out the issue and how the statement is considered harassment and they seem to put down her feelings.

Personal Opinion: 

Aside from the last few middle stories, I really enjoyed other stories, my favorites included the top three, and the last story, The Little Thing. There is an easy flow to the stories that compels the reader to  keep reading and find out what is going on and why its going on. I think the common theme is the focus on relationships between friends, family members, co-workers and those working in the same field.

This book was given to me for an honest review by Dalkey Archive

4 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)

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