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Publishers WeeklyThis haunting collection of nine stories from South Korean writer Chong-hui deftly highlights just how distant and indecipherable other people and places can be. The book draws from throughout Chong-hui's career, opening with her breakout story, 1968's "The Toy Shop Woman." Each tale is realized through lonely female protagonists, women who have been abandoned-emotionally, literally, or both-or whose children have died, or who drink themselves through aching hours. But beyond the alienation and tedium, the stories resonate with a building sense of maturity, acceptance, and wisdom. In the final and most poignant story, "The Old Well," it is the narrator's 45th birthday, and she accordingly contemplates the quiet, unexpected satisfactions of her age: "I know the flavor I'll get when I mix garlic and ginger; I love the predictability of the washcloth and the dishrag; but I also know that there is a kind of method in an occasional escape into chaos." Indeed, these somber and observant moments knit otherwise oblique pages together with a fine thread, one that barely separates the desolate from the hopeful, and speaks powerfully to the interrelatedness of the two conditions.
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