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This Burns My Heart, Samuel Park

2012/03/13

For the longest time, if you had asked an average reader of fiction to name some novels that had Asian characters, you’d probably get a list of Amy Tan novels. Fortunately, in recent years, authors like Lisa See, Khaled Hosseini, and Jhumpa Lahiri have increased the Asian voice in fiction; and in this novel, Samuel Park presents a strong female character.

Soo-ja is the only daughter of her parents, a bright young woman who dreams of becoming the first female diplomat in Korea. However, her parents, a strict but loving father and a traditional mother, insist on her finding stability in marriage before she becomes too much older — at twenty-two, she is already looked upon as an old maid by many. However, Soo-ja marries unwisely, to a stubbornly handsome young man who turns out to have five siblings and a set of controlling, debt-ridden parents. They are manipulative and scheming at times, and Soo-ja begins to understand why her husband lied to her and convinced her to marry him. When Soo-ja has a daughter, her in-laws turn against her, using Hana to force her to stay with the family, and urging her to ask her parents for money.

I enjoyed the writing style, particularly the portrayal of the different characters, their personalities, and their actions, although I found myself growing frustrated with some of them as I read. Soo-Ja comes off as being foolish, irresponsible, and disrespectful at times, making the same mistakes over and over, but the description of her actions and their consequences are conveyed well. I didn’t like this one quite as much as another novel about Koreans that I recently read (Please Look After Mom), but it was definitely worth a read.

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