This Burns My Heart by Samuel Park
Simon & Schuster • $25 • ISBN 9781439199619
Published July 2011 • paperback available March 2012
Samuel Park's moving debut features a strong, memorable heroine torn between love and duty, tradition and freedom, in the changing Korea of the 1960s and 1970s. Soo-Ja meets Yul and immediately feels a connection to him—a confusing development, since she'd just decided to marry another man. Unwilling to go back on her promise and disgrace her family, Soo-Ja rejects Yul to marry Min, a decision she will revisit and regret for the next 20 years. The two see each other only periodically, and usually by chance, but their fraught encounters are tense with the passion of unrequited love, as in the excerpt below.
"I thought I'd forget you with time, and I haven't. When I was younger, I thought there was only room for one person at a time in your heart. And each time you met someone new, you evicted the one who was there before. But now I realize that there are multiple rooms, and your old love doesn't leave. It sits there, waiting."
It occurred to Soo-Ja that if she gave him permission, he'd kiss her right then and there. But she realized that all along, what she really wanted wasn't to have him in the present—how could she, married woman that she was, married man that he was—but to rewrite the past, have him go back in time and create a version that allowed them to kiss. To be able to kiss him did not seem to take much—a step forward, the angling of her face. But, in fact, it required rearranging the molecules of every interaction they'd ever had, from the very first day that they met.
"Forget me, Yul. As long as you're here, you're just a guest."
What are you reading this week?