Thursday, May 10, 2018

807 (2018 #30). The Surrendered

by Chang-Rae Lee

I received an advance reader edition of this book way back in 2010, and finally got around to reading it.  I think the title, the cover, and the length (467 pages) intimidated me.  I'm sorry I waited so long.  The Surrendered was quite good.

The book takes place mostly in 1986 and 1953.  In 1986, June, a Korean-American, is trying to find Hector, the father of her son Nicholas.  She in turn wants him to help her find Nicholas in Europe, as June is dying of cancer.  In 1953, June is fourteen and an orphan at the Korean orphanage where Hector, an American Korean War vet, works.  The orphanage is run by a pastor named Ames Tanner and his wife Sylvie, a daughter of slain missionaries with a tragic past.  The story revolves around June, Hector, and Sylvie, with flashbacks to 1950 and 1934 to give their back stories.

Perhaps because of the post-Korean War setting, this book kept my interest and kept me engaged.  June left her home at age 11 when the Communists invaded Korea, losing her parents, brothers, and sisters along the way.  Hector grew up a brawler and served in the graves unit (collecting the dead) in the war, sticking around afterwards working odd jobs in the orphanage.  They both idolize Sylvie, who witnessed the brutal death of her parents in Manchuria and has not been quite the same since.

The story is bleak and depressing, but intriguing enough to keep my interest until the end.  The book was a finalist for the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

© Amanda Pape - 2018

[This advance reader edition will be passed on to someone else to enjoy.]

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