How friendship, European literature, and a charismatic professor defy war, oppression, and the absurd
Set in 1980s South Korea amid the tremors of political revolution, I'll Be Right There follows Jung Yoon, a highly literate, twenty-something woman, as she recounts her tragic personal history as well as those of her three intimate college friends. When Yoon receives a distressing phone call from her ex-boyfriend after eight years of separation, memories of a tumultuous youth begin to resurface, forcing her to re-live the most intense period of her life. With profound intellectual and emotional insight, she revisits the death of her beloved mother, the strong bond with her now-dying former college professor, the excitement of her first love, and the friendships forged out of a shared sense of isolation and grief.
Yoon's formative experiences, which highlight both the fragility and force of personal connection in an era of absolute uncertainty, become immediately palpable. Shin makes the foreign and esoteric utterly familiar: Her use of European literature as an interpreter of emotion and experience bridges any gaps between East and West. Love, friendship, and solitude are the same everywhere, as this book makes poignantly clear.
Editors Select, June 2014 - I’ll Be Right There after a respected colleague raved about Kyung-Sook Shin’s 2011 sleeper hit, Please Look After Mom. The recommendation proved worthwhile as Shin’s polished prose and ever-evolving narrative drew me in from the first few pages. Shin stubbornly refuses to reveal all of the intricacies of her characters up front, rather forcing the reader to carefully deconstruct their complicated relationships and lives. During this process of discovery a powerful story unfolds, mournful in tone, yet subtly hopeful in its message. Erin Moon narrates this literary feat, and I’m eager to revisit Shin’s tale of love and loss with Moon’s voice as my guide. Katie, Audible Editor
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This is not an easy book to listen to. There's a lot of pain. But the construction of the novel, with various disclosures coming at various times; the amazing language; and the depth of feeling, the scope of the life vision, the tenderness... stunning. All this beauty easily makes up for the tough bits. It will be forever with me.
- jonie v.
Depressing. Takes too long to get started.
- C. Davis