Long for This World by Sonya Chung
This debut about a young woman grieving from multiple loss and tragedies delves into the lives of all the members of her extended family, and spans two continents (Korea, America) and multiple periods of time. The novel is structured in the manner of associative thinking patterns–from one point of view to another, from one time period to the past or the future, not strung together chronologically or sequentially in the plot, but by a certain thought or a thread in a moment or a scene. The construction and pace of the story are driven more by emotional thrust and internal change than by action and plot, though there’s action enough. Because the writing is character-driven and Chung’s impressions and imagery are stunning, the book’s structure works to enhance those qualities. The list of characters at the beginning of the book is especially helpful for readers not familiar with Korean names, which can appear similar and confusing. Chung’s diction has a stiff sense of formality that emphasizes the complex culture of social layers and formality that are embedded in Korean language and speech. Her character studies are moving, poignant, sensitive and the writing about each individual’s struggle is deeply felt and visually expressive.