Kindle edition, 328 pages
ASIN: B00C2UY052ISBN13: 9781483997476
Set against the backdrop of the 2002 World Cup and rising anti-American sentiment due to a deadly accident involving two young Korean girls and a U.S. tank, The Korean Word For Butterfly is told from three alternating points-of-view:
Billie, the young wanna-be poet looking for adventure with her boyfriend who soon finds herself questioning her decision to travel so far from the comforts of American life;
Moon, the ex K-pop band manager who now works at the English school struggling to maintain his sobriety in hopes of getting his family back;
And Yun-ji , a secretary at the school whose new feelings of resentment toward Americans may lead her to do something she never would have imagined possible.
The Korean Word For Butterfly is a story about the choices we make and why we make them. It is a story, ultimately, about the power of love and redemption.
The Korean Word For Butterfly by Jamie Zerndt is a highly recommended novel that explores our fragile connections with what is important in life.
Set in 2002 during the World Cup soccer match and when two 13 year old girls were ran over by a US tank and killed, there are three major characters who tell their stories in alternating chapters in The Korean Word For Butterfly by Jamie Zerndt.
Billie and Joe are two high school graduates who have forge college transcripts and diplomas so they can travel to Korea and teach English at the English language school, Kids, Inc! Billie tells us in the first chapter that she and Joe are frauds but that this job will provide them with an adventure. What she doesn't realize is how much their relationship and lives will be challenged over the course of the next six months.
Moon, a former music producer, currently works for Kids, Inc! His wife, Min Jee, has left him, taking their 3 year old son Hyo with her after a drunken Moon caused their son to hurt his arm. Moon has stopped drinking. He desperately misses his son and longs for his family to be whole again. He's also suspicious that the two new teachers may not actually be qualified to teach.
Yun-ji is a secretary at the school. She lives with her parents and after observing her mother's passive acceptance of her father's neglect and drinking, desires more than a life settling for so little. She meets a handsome GI and starts a relationship with him that will have far reaching consequences.
While the lives of Billie, Moon and Yun-ji are interconnected, they are all also making different choices during some very similar situations: questioning family connections, abuse of alcohol,
pregnancy, abuse of power, tradition versus change. Ultimately the characters different choices lead to different consequences.
This is a thoughtful novel that, while set during a turbulent time, quietly follows the desperate lives of the three characters Billie, Moon, and Yun-ji. Even while living during big events we still process them through our own inner voice, based on our own wants and needs, and search for our own answers. Zerndt has a way with words, perhaps because he is a poet, and has his characters approach their conflicts with a gentleness and understanding that is very appealing. He captures the individuality of his characters brilliantly while ever mindful of the Korean time period and setting. (Note: abortion is presented as a choice in this novel, although not for all characters.)
Disclosure: I received an advanced reading copy of this book from the author for review purposes.
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