“Forgotten Reflections” by Young-Im Lee

Forgotten Reflections

“Forgotten Reflections” tells two stories: one of feisty village girl Iseul, trying to survive during the Korean War, and the other of her granddaughter Jia, who goes on a quest to find out about her dying grandmother’s past instead of studying for her end-of-school exams like the dutiful, obedient girl her mother wants her to be. The result is an epic story of love, family, tragedy, and survival against the backdrop of a Korea that was in danger of tearing itself apart.

The book begins and ends with Jia, and she appears occasionally in the middle, but the bulk of the book is devoted to Iseul and the young man in love with her, who is fighting for the South even though his family is allied with the North. There are multiple points of view and flashbacks and flashforwards, although it is generally clear what is happening. Readers should be aware, however, that the book is quite long and the plot complex, so don’t pick this up thinking it will be a quick read: this is a commitment. But for those interested in Korea and Korean writing, it is worthwhile, with a different perspective on the war than what appears in most American books, and an immersive, multigenerational look at the life of a Korean family. In what might be the most interesting section of the book, the author ends with some reflections on her own personal experiences, some of which went into the story and on the nature of contemporary Korean culture and whether or not the American influence on it has been a good thing. All in all, a book that readers interested in Korean fiction, or who enjoyed Min Jin Lee’s “Pachinko,” may very well want to check out.

My thanks to the author for providing a review copy of this book. All opinions are my own.

Buy link: Amazon

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