Published: April 21 2020
Format: Hardback/Audiobook (Personal copy/Library copy)
Tags: Fiction, Contemporary, Realism, Asian Literature
| Synopsis from the Publisher |
A debut novel set in contemporary Seoul, Korea, about four young women making their way in a world defined by impossibly high standards of beauty, secret room salons catering to wealthy men, strict social hierarchies, and K-pop fan mania. “Even as a girl, I knew the only chance I had was to change my face… even before a fortune-teller told me so.” Kyuri is a beautiful woman with a hard-won job at a “room salon,” an exclusive bar where she entertains businessmen while they drink. Though she prides herself on her cold, clear-eyed approach to life, an impulsive mistake with a client may come to threaten her livelihood.
Her roomate, Miho, is a talented artist who grew up in an orphanage but won a scholarship to study art in New York. Returning to Korea after college, she finds herself in a precarious relationship with the super-wealthy heir to one of Korea’s biggest companies.
Down the hall in their apartment building lives Ara, a hair stylist for whom two preoccupations sustain her: obsession with a boy-band pop star, and a best friend who is saving up for the extreme plastic surgery that is commonplace.
And Wonna, one floor below, is a newlywed trying to get pregnant with a child that she and her husband have no idea how they can afford to raise and educate in the cutthroat economy.
Together, their stories tell a tale that’s seemingly unfamiliar, yet unmistakably universal in the way that their tentative friendships may have to be their saving grace.
Keywords to describe this book: Evocative, Character-Centered, Bittersweet
So I finally read this book. I’ve had it on my shelf, my actual physical bookshelf, since my birthday last year. I’ve been wanting to read it for longer than that. Well, now that I have, I can finally say that I love it as much as I hoped to!
This book was, in a word, fascinating. I learned a good deal about beauty standards in Korea, in addition to other cultural perspectives. This book focuses on four different women who are each connected to each other in various ways, but the main one being they all live in the same apartment building. I am learning, with each book like this, that I am a big fan of women-centered stories. Particularly ones that mostly feature only female characters. That’s not to say there aren’t male characters in this, but the main conversations and interactions in this book are between the four women and other women. I just find the interplay fascinating. It was like getting a glimpse into the contemporary Seoul lifestyles. The women are just regular people who come from varied backgrounds, all with their own hopes and goals.
One of the most interesting things about this book is seeing how their lives slowly become more and more intertwined. Yes, they all start out with a connection or two to each other, but by the end of the book, their lives are much more interconnected. I like that this book’s main goal, basically, is to show this growth. There isn’t a whole lot of plot going on here, it’s a very slow-paced, slice-of-life story, but the thing that makes it interesting is the ways each of these women are the same and different. Their lives are not anything wildly out there, but they each have their own struggles. Seeing them go through and overcome these struggles is the real crux of the novel. That might not be every reader’s jam, but it sure was mine and I’m interested in seeing what more Cha will write in the future.
The last think I want to say about this book is how nice the ending is. I love that it’s not a perfect, tied in a pretty bow ending. It’s bittersweet, but it makes sense and just feels satisfactory. I haven’t had that in a contemporary literary novel in a while.
My rating: Definitely Worth the Read
Thoughts & Thanks!
Anyone planning on reading this book? Yea/Nay? Let me know if you’ve read it, want to read it, or have read something similar that you can recommend me!
And, as always, thanks for stopping by and happy reading!