title: Drifting House [support an independent bookseller and purchase at Strand]
author: Krys Lee
genre: short stories
source: I received an advanced reader’s copy via Netgalley
in exchange for an honest review.
“After a few minutes he reappeared from the kitchen with a low table heavy with rice, soybean paste soup, beef rubs marinated in honey and soy sauce, and pickled vegetables. There was her favorite banchan: beef-stuffed chili peppers and candied lotus flower roots. Men rarely entered the kitchen; the store-bought banchan arranged on small plates was his usual plea for forgiveness.
‘I made dinner for you,’ he said.
As she sat on the floor and ate his lie, he watched, delighted. He kissed her on the throat, the earlobe, the mouth, until she said, ‘That’s enough.’
He kneeled on the bamboo mat beside her. ‘I’m a foolish, weak man.’
‘I want to be the universe for you.’
She tapped the thin fuzz on his scalp with the fat end of the chopstick. ‘That’s impossible.'” (page 154-155, A Small Sorrow).
Lee’s debut collection of short stories is a bit uneven, but remarkable nonetheless. Set in both Korea and America, her stories are at times tragic, at times haunting, and always richly tonal. Lee also seems to be one of the rare contemporary writers who trusts in the intelligence of her reader, in their ability to interpret and infer, which I absolutely appreciate.
A couple highlights…
A Small Sorrow: My personal favorite, and in my opinion, the strongest story in the collection, A Small Sorrow takes a peak inside the marriage of Eunkang and the monogamously-challenged Seongwon. LOVED the way Lee slowly and deliberately laid out each moment with such lyricism. If this is any indication of what Lee is capable of, I’m really excited to read more from her!
The Goose Father: a father, after sending his wife and children to America, takes on a tenant who believes that his pet goose is his mother reincarnated. I felt that the story itself was stronger than the way it was told, but the story itself was almost otherworldly and far made up for the telling.
Rubric rating: 7.5. Definitely looking forward to read her novel, How I Became a North Korean, which is coming out next year 🙂