Certain writers – Chang-rae Lee and Khaled Hosseini immediately come to mind – paralyze my reading capability. I say that with the utmost respect. I become so attached to an author’s previous book (in the rare case, books), that I find myself unable to even open a follow-up title for months and months (sometimes years). I cannot read any reviews (not that I do anyway – I know, I know … what sort of crazy reviewer am I?), I cannot read any author interviews; I have a visceral fear of finding out any tiny details about the latest awaiting hard-bound bundle of deckle-edge pages (my favorite sort of book to hold).
Eventually, desperate curiosity wins out … and I must must must crack that cover. I was, I will confess, the worst sort of nervous wreck reader with Lee’s Surrendered … debut Native Speaker was memorable, A Gesture Life ranks high amidst my all-time favorites, Aloft was assigned to me which saved me from hemming and hawing for too long.
And then The Surrendered. I was over-the-top joyous when I received the galley last fall … last fall [pub date was March 9, 2010]! It sat first right next to my keyboard, and then on my back credenza, and then moved onto my night-table for three seasons. But not until it got loaded onto my iPod (read by a deeply moving, just distanced enough James Yaegashi) while traveling did I finally begin my surrender (ahem). I quickly moved to the printed page … and then, of course, I couldn’t put the book down. The right words fail me here … if you haven’t discovered it already, go buy, beg, borrow, or steal this book and just read it.
Being able to sink into the story without any former knowledge was an absolute gift. So feel free to stop reading this post here …
For those of you who absolutely need to know a little something … The Surrendered is a glorious, tragic, epic triptych. June Han survives the worst devastations of the Korean War as a young child, and at the end of her life, desperately seeks the one place on earth where she might find connection – and even forgiveness. Sylvie Tanner is an untethered lost soul wandering the world, who finds temporary shelter and hopeful love in a makeshift post-war Korean orphanage. Hector Brennan lands amidst the carnage of the Korean War, finding release from grief and loss in violent destruction. Their three narratives collide, disperse, and intersect again, as Lee weaves the strands backwards and forwards in time, with fluidity and jarring shock, creating an unforgettable, breathtaking, uneasy portrait of flawed heroic lives.