This Burns My Heart by Samuel Park makes its debut this month and is chosen as one of Amazons Best Books of the Month (July 2011). After reading this novel, I can see why.
This Burns My Heart is the story of Soo-Ja Choi, a wealthy ambitious young woman in post war South Korea. Like her country, Soo-Ja is torn between deep-rooted cultural traditions and yearning for a more modern lifestyle and freedoms. Soo-Ja has dreams of going to Seoul to be a diplomat; however, her parents have a more traditional dream of her settling down and marrying. Soo-Ja thinks that she can have both. On the eve of her wedding, she turns down the chance for a possible life of happiness and opts for marrying someone she thinks she can manipulate.
She soon finds out that the choices she made will not allow for the lifestyle she so fervently desires. The next decade finds Soo-Ja fighting to endure a life of hardship and trying to carve out a better life for her and her family.
At one point she wonders introspectively if she had chosen differently how her life would be.
“The life she had could not be that different from the one she could’ve had, she had thought. I am the same person, surely the story unfolds roughly the same way? We’re only given one life, and it’s the one we live. How painful now, to realize that wasn’t true, that you would have different lives, depending on how brave you were, and how ready.”
Then thinking back to the momentous decision she made at the age of 22 she wonders (and I think this is profound):
“Why are we asked to make the most important decisions of our lives when we are so young, and so prone to mistakes?”
Samuel Park does a comprehensive job of developing the characters throughout the story. I could personally picture these characters in my mind and felt I knew them well. While I want to shake Soo-Ja for her stubbornness, I also want to praise her for being a proud strong woman and a survivor. Her perseverance and courage shine through even when she is in the depths of despair.
Mr. Park’s mellifluous prose made reading this novel a joy.
While preparing for her wedding day and feeling the happiness of the moment, he writes of Soo-Ja, “She would be the sky for a day, emotions passing through her like clouds, her being changing in a matter of minutes.”
The book is filled with imagery like this. Enjoy!
Simon & Schuster provided a review copy of this book. All opinions are my own.
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