Drifting House


Set in Korea and the United States from the postwar era to contemporary times, Krys Lee's stunning fiction debut illuminates a people struggling to reconcile the turmoil of their collective past with the rewards and challenges of their present. Amid the famine in North Korea, the financial crisis of South Korea, and the cramped apartments and Koreatown strip malls of the United States, Krys Lee's vivid and luminous tales speak to the political and financial hardships of life in...
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Drifting House

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Set in Korea and the United States from the postwar era to contemporary times, Krys Lee's stunning fiction debut illuminates a people struggling to reconcile the turmoil of their collective past with the rewards and challenges of their present. Amid the famine in North Korea, the financial crisis of South Korea, and the cramped apartments and Koreatown strip malls of the United States, Krys Lee's vivid and luminous tales speak to the political and financial hardships of life in Korea and the uniquely unmoored immigrant experience.
            In the tradition of Chang-rae Lee's Native Speaker and Jhumpa Lahiri's Interpreter of Maladies, Drifting House is an unforgettable work exploring love, identity, war, and the homes we make for ourselves, by a dazzling new writer.

Winner of the 2012 Story Prize Spotlight Award

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this sublime debut collection spanning both Koreas and America, protagonists locked in by oppressive social forces struggle to break free in original ways, each unexpected denouement a minor miracle (“The Goose Father”) or a perfect tragedy (“Drifting House”). In “A Small Sorrow,” Seongwon, the wife of a famous painter, herself an artist, tracks down her husband’s latest lover (a character who appears as a young girl in a later story, “Beautiful Women”) to explore her own attraction and reinvent herself appropriately. Seeing Mina up close for the first time, Seongwon notes: “Her face, bright and alert, diminished the garden’s gingko trees and surrounding mountains into a mere landscape.” The author’s imaginative metaphors and easy rhythmic variances are unerring, carrying the reader effortlessly. In “The Pastor’s Son,” New Mother, the aging second wife of a widower, crushed by her clergyman husband’s abuse, “weaved out of the hall, her face volcanic with misery.” In “The Goose Father,” a poet-turned-accountant falls in love with a young thespian who believes a lame goose is his dead mother. After nearly kissing the boy’s tendered lips, Gilho slaps his protégé instead, and “Wuseong staggered backward, his hand cupping his cheek. Gilho’s chest tightened like the beginning of a heart attack. A terrible loneliness spiked through him as he looked at the boy.” The limpid, naturalistic prose and the flawless internal logic of these stories are reminiscent of the best of Katherine Anne Porter and Carson McCullers. (Feb.)
Library Journal
Lee, whose peregrinations originated and are currently paused in South Korea with formative stopovers in the United States and England, infuses the nine stories of her breathtaking debut with the consequences of dislocation—whether forced because of war or chosen by virtue of immigration. The continuing aftermath of Korean partition sends three starving North Korean siblings on a brutal journey to find their runaway mother in the title story, while a fractured North Korean family struggles to create a new American life in "At the Edge of the World." In a brave, new postwar Korea, a lonely accountant diligently supports his wife and children living overseas in "The Goose Father," while across the ocean, a Korean divorcée marries a stranger in order to search for her missing daughter in "A Temporary Marriage." VERDICT Like Daniyal Mueenuddin, a National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize finalist for his debut collection, In Other Rooms, Other Wonders, Lee, too, enters the literary world fully formed. Readers in search of exquisite short fiction beyond their comfort zone—groupies of Jhumpa Lahiri (Unaccustomed Earth) and Yoko Tawada (Where Europe Begins)—will thrill to discover Lee's work. [See Prepub Alert, 8/29/11.]—Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon, Washington, DC
Kirkus Reviews
Affecting stories about the conflicts between Korean and American culture. Lee tends to focus on domestic relationships, the tensions--sometimes unbridgeable--between husband and wife, between parent and child. In the opening story, "A Temporary Marriage," Mrs. Shin saves money to travel from Seoul to southern California to find her daughter Yuri, who she feels has been "kidnapped" and spirited away to America by her ex-husband. In the suburbs of Los Angeles she shares a home with Mr. Rhee, a stranger but fellow-countryman, and fears he might have romantic designs on her. Desperate to locate her daughter, Mrs. Shin hires a detective, Mr. Pak, who eventually locates Yuri, only to find that her daughter has essentially forgotten her, poisoned by the bitterness of her ex-husband as well as by the cultural divide between Korea and the U.S. In "The Pastor's Son," a woman makes her husband, Pastor Ryu, promise to marry her old childhood friend, Hyeseon Min, after she dies. The pastor and Hyeseon travel from California back to Seoul for a traditional Korean wedding, but the pastor's new wife is distressed to discover this marriage of convenience involves no love on the part of the pastor. The heartbreaking "The Salaryman" presents the depressed economic conditions in Korea following the economic bust of 1997. Lee traces the misfortunes of Mr. Seo, who loses his job and then his wife and family. He winds up on the street with a sign around his neck, begging for food and fighting off other "beggars." "At the Edge of the World" focuses on the split identity of Myeongseok Lee, a prodigy who goes by his Korean name at home and by "Mark" at school. Lee writes with a clarity and simplicity of style that discloses deep and conflicting emotions about cultural identity.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780143122937
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 12/24/2012
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 669,819
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 7.70 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Krys Lee was born in Seoul, South Korea, and raised in California and Washington. Her work has appeared in Granta (New Voices), Narrative, Kenyon Review, and the Guardian (London), among other publications. She divides her time between Seoul and San Francisco, California.
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Table of Contents

A Temporary Marriage 1

At the Edge of the World 25

The Pastor's Son 51

The Goose Father 71

The Salaryman 93

Drifting House 113

A Small Sorrow 129

The Believer 147

Beautiful Women 169

Acknowledgments 209

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