This Burns My Heart by Samuel Park [in Library Journal]
Set in postwar South Korea, where tradition is challenged by the eye-blinking changes erupting from a rapidly evolving modernity, Park’s (Shakespeare’s Sonnets) novel is essentially a triangulated love story involving wealthy and stunning Soo-Ja who dreams of becoming a diplomat in a brave new world, the weak-willed lothario she marries, and the good doctor she lets go.
For the sake of her beloved daughter, Soo-Ja chastely endures her suffocating marriage, which is exacerbated by the manipulations of her greedy father-in-law. “Chamara,” the devastated would-be lover tells her, “[t]o stand it, to bear it,” a sentiment commingled with the empathy of his agonizing, “This burns my heart, too.”
Verdict: Inspired by the life of Park’s mother, to whom the book is dedicated, this novel has the added gravitas of being embellished truth. It will surely claim a popular spot on the ever-growing shelves of sweeping historical titles starring long-suffering heroines in faraway locales, from Lisa See’s Shanghai Girls to Eugenia Kim’s more recent The Calligrapher’s Daughter. Readers in search of more substantial Korean/Korean American reads might try Kyung-sook Shin’s Please Look After Mom, Sonya Chung’s Long for This World, or Chang-Rae Lee’s The Surrendered.