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The Kinship of Secrets

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From the author of The Calligrapher’s Daughter comes the riveting story of two sisters, one raised in the United States, the other in South Korea, and the family that bound them together even as the Korean War kept them apart. In 1948 Najin and Calvin Cho, with their young daughter Miran, travel from South Korea to the United States in search of new opportunities. Wary of t From the author of The Calligrapher’s Daughter comes the riveting story of two sisters, one raised in the United States, the other in South Korea, and the family that bound them together even as the Korean War kept them apart. In 1948 Najin and Calvin Cho, with their young daughter Miran, travel from South Korea to the United States in search of new opportunities. Wary of the challenges they know will face them, Najin and Calvin make the difficult decision to leave their other daughter, Inja, behind with their extended family; soon, they hope, they will return to her. But then war breaks out in Korea, and there is no end in sight to the separation. Miran grows up in prosperous American suburbia, under the shadow of the daughter left behind, as Inja grapples in her war-torn land with ties to a family she doesn’t remember. Najin and Calvin desperately seek a reunion with Inja, but are the bonds of love strong enough to reconnect their family over distance, time, and war? And as deep family secrets are revealed, will everything they long for be upended? Told through the alternating perspectives of the distanced sisters, and inspired by a true story, The Kinship of Secrets? explores the cruelty of war, the power of hope, and what it means to be a sister.


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From the author of The Calligrapher’s Daughter comes the riveting story of two sisters, one raised in the United States, the other in South Korea, and the family that bound them together even as the Korean War kept them apart. In 1948 Najin and Calvin Cho, with their young daughter Miran, travel from South Korea to the United States in search of new opportunities. Wary of t From the author of The Calligrapher’s Daughter comes the riveting story of two sisters, one raised in the United States, the other in South Korea, and the family that bound them together even as the Korean War kept them apart. In 1948 Najin and Calvin Cho, with their young daughter Miran, travel from South Korea to the United States in search of new opportunities. Wary of the challenges they know will face them, Najin and Calvin make the difficult decision to leave their other daughter, Inja, behind with their extended family; soon, they hope, they will return to her. But then war breaks out in Korea, and there is no end in sight to the separation. Miran grows up in prosperous American suburbia, under the shadow of the daughter left behind, as Inja grapples in her war-torn land with ties to a family she doesn’t remember. Najin and Calvin desperately seek a reunion with Inja, but are the bonds of love strong enough to reconnect their family over distance, time, and war? And as deep family secrets are revealed, will everything they long for be upended? Told through the alternating perspectives of the distanced sisters, and inspired by a true story, The Kinship of Secrets? explores the cruelty of war, the power of hope, and what it means to be a sister.

30 review for The Kinship of Secrets

  1. 5 out of 5

    Angela M

    I was drawn to read Eugenia Kim’s new book because it is a continuation of Najin’s story from The Calligrapher's Daughter, which is a beautifully written story depicting the Japanese occupation of Korea. It’s a story based on the author’s family as is The Kinship of Secrets. Writing of another time in Korea’s history during the Korean War, reflected through her family’s history makes this one so meaningful as well. This time the focus is on Najin’s two daughters with alternating narratives of th I was drawn to read Eugenia Kim’s new book because it is a continuation of Najin’s story from The Calligrapher's Daughter, which is a beautifully written story depicting the Japanese occupation of Korea. It’s a story based on the author’s family as is The Kinship of Secrets. Writing of another time in Korea’s history during the Korean War, reflected through her family’s history makes this one so meaningful as well. This time the focus is on Najin’s two daughters with alternating narratives of the two sisters, Miran in America with their mother and father and Inja left in Korea with family. Miran had been sickly as a baby and it was decided to take her to America and then return for Inja. But the reunion of Inja with her family isn’t possible for many years as the war rages on and immigration limitations prevent travel for several years. During the years that pass, we come to know the hardships of the war on Inja, her beautiful relationship with her uncle who cares for her as his own, her closeness with her grandparents and it is at times heartbreaking as she tries to understand why she was left behind. Miran feels a connection to her sister in Korea, but doesn’t always understand what is happening there. This is a picture of the Korean War and the strength and love of a family facing the consequences of that war. I don’t want to give more details, but will say that the title perfectly reflects the beauty of this novel, how secrets shared and also secrets kept illustrate the meaning of love. Kim’s love of her family, her respect for the tough decisions they made, her care to understand their history is what this novel is about. This is clear In her ending note, as well as this wonderful interview. https://www.eugenia-kim.com/2018/06/0... , I received an advanced copy of this book from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt through Edelweiss.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    Absorbing the reality affected from ‘one decision’ that changed the lives for each family member is ‘gut-felt’, ...vividly imagined. In time that ‘decision’ will become more clear for two separated sisters - one raised in the U.S. - the other in South Korea - after some adjustment time of re-connecting at age 15. Intimacy grows between them through years of loss - and deeper understanding. Based on a true story... we see what can really happen during migration when two countries are at war... The K Absorbing the reality affected from ‘one decision’ that changed the lives for each family member is ‘gut-felt’, ...vividly imagined. In time that ‘decision’ will become more clear for two separated sisters - one raised in the U.S. - the other in South Korea - after some adjustment time of re-connecting at age 15. Intimacy grows between them through years of loss - and deeper understanding. Based on a true story... we see what can really happen during migration when two countries are at war... The Korea War - sadly doesn’t look much more frightening than current news today. The writing is simplistic...‘mostly’ narrated through the children’s voices. Not a long book - easy comfortable reading style - Tender and one easily remembered.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Linda

    The value of love comes to the surface on the waves of separation. Eugenia Kim presents her heartheld story which unfolds in a small village in South Korea in 1948. The country is teeming with unrest and movement to safer zones prompts families to take on challenges never planned nor envisioned. Najin and Calvin Cho must make a snap decision to leave their native country for America when their paperwork is finally approved. Calvin has been trained in church ministry and America will provide oppor The value of love comes to the surface on the waves of separation. Eugenia Kim presents her heartheld story which unfolds in a small village in South Korea in 1948. The country is teeming with unrest and movement to safer zones prompts families to take on challenges never planned nor envisioned. Najin and Calvin Cho must make a snap decision to leave their native country for America when their paperwork is finally approved. Calvin has been trained in church ministry and America will provide opportunities for the small family. With heavy hearts, they decide to bring the older daughter, Miran, with them and they leave their infant daughter, Inja, with Najin's family. Their hope is to return to South Korea and bring Inja to America after they are settled. But fate has other plans for this family as it often does. War breaks out and Najin's extended family must gather only what they can carry and take to the mud-filled roads alongside thousands of other desperate souls. War is the great equalizer that spreads fear and hopelessness among the fortunate and the unfortunate. Bombs destroy and leave desolation from house to house regardless of the inhabitants. Tomorrow is promised to no one. Young Miran grows up in the suburbans in America never touched directly by war. She accompanies her mother, Najin, to the post office at least once a week with packages and letters for the South Korean family. Najin wrings her hands in almost uncontrolled desperation waiting to hear if her family and little Inja are still alive. The reality of the situation grabs her forcefully that reunification may be impossible now. The Kinship of Secrets reminds us of how futile our plans can be in life. What seems logical and doable in a tighten set of goals may not come to fruition when that scope widens. We will always be at the mercy of the actions and decisions made within that ever-changing current that surrounds us. The Earth tends to shift at times and we must constantly stabilize ourselves to bend and flow to a rhythm not necessarily of our own design. Eugenia Kim has carved these characters with quite the adeptness. As readers, we feel the weight of the circumstances laid heavily upon them. We also see the purity of their intentions and the power of their stamina under such drastic situations. Kim does a fine job of switching the story setting from wartorn South Korea to the neighborhoods of America. She will slowly lift the curtain that has been shielding dark family secrets. And light falls upon those most affected by convoluted truths. After reading The Kinship of Secrets, I'd like to check out Eugenia Kim's prior novel, The Calligrapher's Daughter. Her writing style is vivid in description and poignant in its telling. I believe that she is one author whose future offerings will certainly be looked forward to. Bravo, Ms. Kim.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    Tl;dr: The Kinship of Secrets is a compelling, interesting book that really sheds light on an important period in Korean history. I wanted to read this after a great review for it popped up on my feed--and I'm glad I did! The Kinship of Secrets is straightforward but very emotional. In 1948, right before the beginning of the Korean War, Najin and Calvin leave Korea for America. The cost of traveling is expensive and to show their love for Najin's family, and to prove their commitment to returning, Tl;dr: The Kinship of Secrets is a compelling, interesting book that really sheds light on an important period in Korean history. I wanted to read this after a great review for it popped up on my feed--and I'm glad I did! The Kinship of Secrets is straightforward but very emotional. In 1948, right before the beginning of the Korean War, Najin and Calvin leave Korea for America. The cost of traveling is expensive and to show their love for Najin's family, and to prove their commitment to returning, they travel with their younger daughter, Miran, while leaving their older daughter, Inja, with the family. Najin and Calvin settle in the suburbs of Washington D. C. and Calvin starts working with Voice of America, Najin starts making kimichi to sell to local businesses and watchrs Miran until she starts school, and then she works fulltime as well. Im addition, both Najin and Calvin are extremely active in their local church. They save as much as they can to bring Inja to America, but the cost is high--and then the Korean War begins. I'd studied the Korean War in school, and I am ashamed to admit that it was taught as a short, straightforward war, a small conflict that occurred during the rise of the Iron Curtain snd prior to the more complicated war in Vietnam. Well, my teachers were certainly wrong! Though I knew the choice that led to North and South Korea separated families and caused enormous political and social changes in both countries, I never was told (or thought much about--and I should have!) about the way the war created an enormous refugee problem that led not just to extremely difficult living circumstances for many Koreans, but led many Koreans who had left after World War II and who had intended to return/bring family over to them unable to do so. As a result of the war, Najin and Calvin are forced to wait--and wait-- to bring Inja over. She ends up spending the first fifteen years of her life living with her grandparents and aunt snd uncle, her parents abstract objects who send packages of goods from America that the family immediately sells for money. Inja and her family are forced to flee Seoul during the war and live as refugees until they are able to return, with food and shelter in short supply and confusion about who is winning the war and which side is safest rampant. Inja's childhood is quite grim, but she loves her grandparents and adores her uncle, and although readers know that her parents are continually working to bring her to America, and long for her to be with them, Inja gradually starts to see her parents as something so remote she can't even understand the idea of actually seeing them in person. In contrast to Inja, Miran grows up in thr bustle and boom of post WWII America, with a comfortable home, and no worries about where her next meal will come from, etc. Interestingly, Miran is hyperaware of her sister. In addition to having to help prepare packages to send to Korea (and act as translator at the post office, as although Miran's Korean is not great, English is her first and best language), her parents are constantly talking about Inja and what will happen when she joins them, with Najin becoming increasingly despondent as the years roll by. Thus Inja, although living in a more precarious situation, feels relatively happy because she is devoted to her uncle, who in turn adores her. She is also frequently told family stories that help her realize that family separation (and great sorrow) are all too common, and her separation from her parents fades to an abstract concept. Miran, on the othet hand, grows up acutely concious of the family situation and also feels like an outsider, all too aware of the differences between her family's lifestyle and those of her classmates. She wants more than anything to be like everyone else even as she knows it can't happen and is barraged with her mother's constant reminders that as soon as Inja joins them, the family will be complete. This feeling--of being an outsider, and of being part of a family that's defined by who they are without-- defines Miran's first fifteen years and herself. By the time the conditions are right for Inja to finally travel to America, she doesn't want to go. She can't picture herself there, can't picture her parents or sister, and wants to stay with the family and life she knows. Her terror, confusion, and feelings of overwhelming despair when she leaves Korea and over the first few months in America are very well done. Inja's bewilderment with (and anger at) her parents (particularly her mother) leaves her feeling lost and alone but she consoles herself with a plan to one day return to Korea and her family there. Meanwhile, Miran, who is finally reunited with the sister her parents' lives have revolved around, is happy to have her there, although she still feels like an outsider and wrestles with how confident Inja seems to be, as well as how much praise she earns for everything she does from what seems (to Miran) like everyone. The story continues through both Miran and Inja finishing high school, attending college, and eventually living together in New York while Inja continues to plan her return visit to her family in Korea. She's finally able to go and persuades Miran to come with her. Once she is back in Korea, she discovers that although it is still and will always be part of her, both she and Korea are different--but that no matter what, she will always define herself as Korean. Miran, who still sees and defines herself as an outsider, likes Korea, but can't see herself as being from Korea, or even as being Korean. However, Miran has, to a large extent, accepted and embraced her feeling of being different, becoming active in political and social movements in 1970s America. Overall, The Kinship of Secrets is a good read. Miran, Inja, and Najin are all interesting and compelling characters and while all three suffer the consequences of the family separation, Najin's grief for her "missing" daughter and Inja's despair when she realizes she has to leave Korea and fury when she arrives, not just over the new culture she isn't that interested in (at first), but at the parents who insist on love and respect even though she doesn't know them and wants to be with the family she does know and love, in particular, are pretty moving and definitely well written. Having said that, those looking for a family saga will be disappointed, as although plenty of space is devoted to Inja and Miran's lives prior to being reunited, once they are, the pace picks up considerably. I liked this--adolescence and early adulthood might go by slow to you while it's happening, but later it seems like loads of major things happened in so, so short a time--but I don't think the pace change from very languid to hyper accelerated is going to be for everyone. I thought the ever growing and ever more bleak reveals for why Najin and Calvin chose to take Miran to America instead of Inja were unnecessary and eventually way, way over the top. It's as if Ms. Kim didn't trust that readers would accept the basic premise of the novel and decided, as she wrote, to keeping adding reasons why Miran had to/needed to not only be taken to America but to always see and feel different. It wasn't neccessary and really dragged the book down, especially toward the end.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Chandra Claypool (wherethereadergrows)

    Totally going out of my normal reads, when offered the opportunity to read this book, I just couldn't say no. I don't read historical fiction very often but this one that deals with my Korean culture stood out and I'm so glad that I picked this up. I'll say again how important it is to read the author's note at the end. I was fascinated to find that the story for this novel derives from the author's family life, especially her sister's, which made the story so much more impactful for me. As a hal Totally going out of my normal reads, when offered the opportunity to read this book, I just couldn't say no. I don't read historical fiction very often but this one that deals with my Korean culture stood out and I'm so glad that I picked this up. I'll say again how important it is to read the author's note at the end. I was fascinated to find that the story for this novel derives from the author's family life, especially her sister's, which made the story so much more impactful for me. As a half-Korean woman, I have heard stories and have learned a lot about my culture. I couldn't imagine being split up from a sister so long that she is just a stranger to me, and then having a reunion with her and the intricacies of how that relationship ebbs and flows. This reminded me (very) slightly of me and my cousin. We're both only children but grew up together in the same household for years. My dad sponsored my aunt, uncle and cousin to the US and she is older but had very limited English. It was definitely something to get used to - having someone you now have to share a room with, be compared to... teach and yet still learn from. As I was reading, I found myself wondering how someone who doesn't know the English language would read the Korean words - even though they're written in "English", the pronunciation would be different for those who know, have heard or have never learned. I heard them loud and clear in my various family members' voices during my read. Overall I really liked this book and it really spoke to me. The characters, especially the sisters, are given to us in detail and you really get a sense of what these girls (and their families) are going through. For me personally, I may have needed a little more *something* for this to really resonate and shine. However, I think that just stems from my typically not enjoying this genre because of too much of a history lesson over a story line. Anyone who wants a heartfelt story of two Korean girls split up between Korea and the US and their individual plights will surely adore this novel. 3.5 stars - rounded to 4 for goodreads. Thank you to HMH for this copy.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Tammy

    Even though my father in law was a Korean War veteran, I knew little about this era in time. I love historical fiction and couldn’t wait to read this one! The Kinship of Secrets is the story of a country divided and the sacrifices one family made for a child. Eugenia Kim did an amazing job of bringing Korea and her people to life! I can’t imagine how hard life was for the Korean people during this war. I especially loved the author’s note at the end and what inspired her to write this book!

  7. 5 out of 5

    Teresa

    Loved this book - an emotional, based on true life story of a remarkable bond between separated & reunited sisters. Unforgettable. Highly recommend.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Theresa Smith Writes

    ‘This novel is a fiction derived from the facts of my family’s life, and especially my sister’s life, during and after the Korean War, the fifth deadliest war in human history, also known as “the forgotten war”.’ – Author notes. This novel has impressed me so much more than I could have ever anticipated. It’s a delicate balance of clear expression and deeply moving prose, a story that is quite honestly, unforgettable. And the fact that it is based for the most part on the author’s own family, mak ‘This novel is a fiction derived from the facts of my family’s life, and especially my sister’s life, during and after the Korean War, the fifth deadliest war in human history, also known as “the forgotten war”.’ – Author notes. This novel has impressed me so much more than I could have ever anticipated. It’s a delicate balance of clear expression and deeply moving prose, a story that is quite honestly, unforgettable. And the fact that it is based for the most part on the author’s own family, makes it even more impacting. Some might wonder why, with so much truth embedded into the narrative, the author didn’t write this story as a memoir. Personally, I feel that fiction offers more creative power to most stories, provided you can strike the right balance between truth and narrative, which Eugenia Kim does with a deft hand. ‘Forgive me, Lord, if in the darkest places hidden deep in my heart – hidden even from my own sincerity – there should reside the thought that I have brought the wrong daughter to America.’ The Kinship of Secrets tells the story of two sisters growing up apart. One with her parents in America, the other in South Korea with her extended family made up of her uncle, aunt, and grandparents. The story begins at the outbreak of the Korean War, when the girls are aged three and four years old, and spans through until they are in their mid-twenties. It seems at first unbelievable that a couple would migrate to another country and only take one daughter. As a mother myself, I found this intensely unsettling. Yet, I was unable to reproach Najin, because her loss and sacrifice was so profound. Times were so different, it was no simple matter of hopping on an aeroplane and travelling in comfort like we do today. As reprehensible as it seemed to leave one child behind, I could understand it intimately, and as more information surrounding the decision and what influenced the choosing of one child over the other came to light, the more I understood, and the more my heart cracked open for Najin. ‘Her mind swirled with questions and something dark she didn’t like feeling. Always it was the war. This war, the war before, the one before that. It seemed everyone used it as an excuse for all ills. And perhaps it was.’ I’ve never read a novel about the Korean War before, so I really appreciated gaining such insight into the politics and the conflict, both during the war and in the unsettled years that followed. I draw back to Eugenia Kim’s effortless writing style, so clear and precise, yet never overloading with facts or politics. I felt like I was fully informed, yet never weighted down. By facts, at least. My emotions were another story! There were so many moments, of horror, of simple joy, of human connection, that impacted me greatly. ‘Would she even like her? Something about that thought felt wrong, as if having a sister meant they’d automatically like – and even love – each other. But what if they didn’t?’ The separation of these sisters is the driving force behind this story as we are eternally moving towards a time when they might meet, when Inja might finally be reunited with the family she has no memory of. The difficulties attached to this were explored fully, most notably the emotional side of it. Inja’s uncle was such a incredibly wonderful man, he was truly inspirational in the way he loved Inja and brought her up on his sister’s behalf with such care. But this of course made it all the more harder for Inja to contemplate ever leaving Korea. She loved Korea: her friends, her school, her family. Everything in America was unknown, most particularly, her sister Miran who spoke no Korean, just as Inja spoke no English. These sisters were not only separated by distance, but by culture. It was quite heartbreaking. ‘She was aware of a strange kind of power one gained from holding secrets, and how confidences begat a kind of self-confidence – how the power of secrets required an inner strength and the maturity of discernment to keep them hidden.’ Inja was a favourite of mine but I did really feel for Miran, a Korean girl who was not Korean, if that makes any sense. She was American, but growing up in the era of the Cold War, shadowed by a mythical sister who had been left behind in Korea, who her mother clearly pined for. Inja was a big part of her life, for fifteen years parcels were sent, she shared so many of her things with Inja, without having ever met her. Their language barrier meant they were unable to even exchange letters. The adjustment period for the sisters when they at last lived together was fraught at times, but lined with sincerity. I loved how they made their way with each other, connected by a fragile thread in the web that made up their family history. This is a novel about strong women, about hardship and sacrifice, about love and honour. It’s about finding yourself when you are lost within circumstances not of your own making. The title is particularly profound, especially with regards to Inga, who became quite the secret keeper within the family. So many themes of culture and family are explored alongside the consequences of war. The Kinship of Secrets is a remarkable novel, magnificent in its execution and profoundly beautiful in its narration. This is one I highly recommend. ‘Her mother and grandmother had risen like dragons from the sea floor of a centuries-old, neo-Confucian culture of female oppression. She had been given a tremendous gift of two unique women whose lives – whose Korean lives – had already exemplified for her what she could learn from the burgeoning American feminist crusade.’ Thanks is extended to Bloomsbury Publishing via Netgalley for providing me with a copy of The Kinship of Secrets for review.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Laura Hill

    The Kinship of Secrets Thank you to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and NetGalley for an early review copy of The Kinship of Secrets by Eugenia Kim, which will publish November 6, 2018.  All thoughts are my own. Writing: 4 Plot: 4.5 Characters: 5 An utterly engaging story that follows two sisters as they grow up separately due to the Korean War. When Najin and Calvin leave Korea for America, they bring with them the older sister — Miran — but leave baby Inja behind with her uncle and grandparents. What w The Kinship of Secrets Thank you to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and NetGalley for an early review copy of The Kinship of Secrets by Eugenia Kim, which will publish November 6, 2018.  All thoughts are my own. Writing: 4 Plot: 4.5 Characters: 5 An utterly engaging story that follows two sisters as they grow up separately due to the Korean War. When Najin and Calvin leave Korea for America, they bring with them the older sister — Miran — but leave baby Inja behind with her uncle and grandparents. What was originally meant to be a 1-2 year absence becomes a 16 year separation as first war and then U.S. immigration policies serve as barriers to reunion. When Inja is finally reunited with her “real” family, she is understandably bereft at being torn from her “real” home and family in Korea. Well-written and full of fascinating, well-researched details of life in both locations as seen through the eyes of a young girl growing up. The time frame spans 1950 through 1973. Inja’s life in Korea goes through the terribly difficult war years, the armistice, and reconstruction before she leaves for America. Ten years later she returns and sees yet another Korea - one that is modernizing under the leadership of Park Chung-hee. The focus on individuality and independence in America is contrasted with a more communal priority in Korea. For Inja, “The comfort of being home, her Korean home, came from fulfilling the drive to belong. But this drive also heightened the pain of division when a single small thing marked one as different, such as Inja having a mother but not having a mother; for Uncle, having her as a daughter who was not his daughter; for Miran being Korean yet not being Korean.” The role of secrets and the truth in love and family cohesion is a theme throughout the book. A number of painful secrets are kept in order to avoid bringing others pain. Inja has learned and internalized this behavior and reflects on its value: Secrecy is “a way to live in the accumulation of a difficult family history, a way that was a profound expression of love.” When Inja thinks of the many secrets she keeps, she thinks: “These were all precedents that venerated keeping secrets from her mother as being rituals of love.” This book is genuine and full of insights. It’s a great opportunity to learn history through the eyes of people who have lived it and culture through the eyes of people who embody it. The story appears to be loosely based on aspects of the author’s family which is probably responsible for the natural and honest feel of the prose. While full of feeling, the book is not overly dramatic which I appreciate. For those who enjoyed Pachinko, I found this to be a complementary narrative that further fleshes out Korean culture and history. A great read.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Ellen

    This novel has everything I love about reading about other cultures and time periods, starting during the Korean War, and extending well into the '60's. Najin and Calvin emigrate to the U.S., but only bring one daughter, Miran. Inja is left behind with her grandparents and Uncle's family - with the intention of bringing her over. However, due to war, financial circumstances, and other situations, Inja does not come to the US until she is 15. Adjusting to live in America, adjusting to having a si This novel has everything I love about reading about other cultures and time periods, starting during the Korean War, and extending well into the '60's. Najin and Calvin emigrate to the U.S., but only bring one daughter, Miran. Inja is left behind with her grandparents and Uncle's family - with the intention of bringing her over. However, due to war, financial circumstances, and other situations, Inja does not come to the US until she is 15. Adjusting to live in America, adjusting to having a sister, and parents is not an easy feat. Learning about Korea in the 1950's, the politics and culture of the times, as well as the character development of both sisters, makes for a wonderful read. Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Betty

    This beautifully written book is the story of two sisters, only ten months apart in age, separated as toddlers. In 1948 daughter Inja is left in South Korea with her Uncle and Aunt and her grandparents, as her parents Calvin and Najin Cho, along with daughter Miran, move to the United States in search of better opportunities for their family. Their plan to return for Inja is crushed by the outbreak of the Korean War. Thus, Miran grows up under the shadow of a sister she barely remembers, while I This beautifully written book is the story of two sisters, only ten months apart in age, separated as toddlers. In 1948 daughter Inja is left in South Korea with her Uncle and Aunt and her grandparents, as her parents Calvin and Najin Cho, along with daughter Miran, move to the United States in search of better opportunities for their family. Their plan to return for Inja is crushed by the outbreak of the Korean War. Thus, Miran grows up under the shadow of a sister she barely remembers, while Inja receives “care packages” from a family she knows little about. Told through alternating perspectives of the sisters, the story takes the family from 1950 to 1973, thus allowing the reader to observe the growth of Miran and Inja, the impact of the separation on the sisters, and the hardships experienced by the family in South Korea. We also read of the efforts of the Korean community in the United States to ease the burdens of their loved ones in South Korea. While most of the story focuses on the sisters, Ms. Kim also writes of the mother’s efforts to acclimate to her new home and the guilt she feels over leaving a daughter behind. In the Author’s Note I learned that this story was inspired by the author’s life. The contrast between Inya’s and Miran’s lives was heart-breaking. One sister had so much, the other struggled. One knew immense love, the other lacked emotional support. Subtle differences between belonging and not belonging – having a mother but not having a mother, having a daughter but not having a daughter, being Korean yet not being Korean. My favorite “take-away” from Ms. Kim’s book is the phrase “the charity of secrets”. What a beautiful phrase! I felt the pace was appropriate for a story that covers this range of years taking the sisters from their toddler years to their mid-20’s. It was interesting observing the development of their personalities, each reflecting a blend of their culture and their environment. Also as the sisters mature, family secrets are revealed. I loved reading about the beauty of the Korean culture and its emphasis on family. I also learned a bit about the Korean War and now understand why it is called “The Forgotten War”. I enjoyed Ms. Kim’s writing so much I just ordered her previous book “The Calligrapher's Daughter”. She wrote of the difficulty of everyday life during the time of war, family ties, humor in the darkest of times, and the love between sisters. Thank you to BookBrowse and the publisher for the advance review copy. All opinions are my own.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jenifer Greenwell

    I absolutely loved this book! In fact, I stopped reading with about 10-15 pages left because I didn't want it to end. A great emotional roller coaster of a read that I would highly recommend. I am on my way to the bookstore now to get "The Calligrapher's Daughter" because I need more of this wonderful author. I would like to thank Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Goodreads for my ARC that I won in a giveaway.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Anita Eti

    Wow. Just wow. This is one of those books you keep on your bookshelf and open when you're feeling ungrateful or something. Just reading about the experience of the 2 sisters makes one feel as if they should go thank their parents, and reading the descriptions of the brutality perpetrated during the seldom mentioned Korean war makes me feel like I need to review my history. This is a beautifully moving book, and I couldn't help but be engrossed in their lives, their kinship and shared connections. Wow. Just wow. This is one of those books you keep on your bookshelf and open when you're feeling ungrateful or something. Just reading about the experience of the 2 sisters makes one feel as if they should go thank their parents, and reading the descriptions of the brutality perpetrated during the seldom mentioned Korean war makes me feel like I need to review my history. This is a beautifully moving book, and I couldn't help but be engrossed in their lives, their kinship and shared connections. How jarring it must be to be separated from your parents for over a decade while you lived life in post-war Korea- or to be the other sister in America who feels as if she doesn't quite belong? As you progress in the story and learn about the other characters you really feel as if this is a movie playing in front of your eyes- and learning that its based on a true story makes everything come alive. Thanks Edelweiss+ for an ARC of this novel.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Liz

    Via my book blog at https://cavebookreviews.blogspot.com/ Shortly before the Korean conflict turned into a fully militarized war, Calvin Cho took his wife, Najin, and one of his daughters, Miran to the USA to raise money for a church. They decided to leave their other daughter, Inja, in the care of Najin's brother. Calvin worked as a translator and announcer for the US military radio. They did not foresee that it would be many years before the Korean War ended and their family situation would cha Via my book blog at https://cavebookreviews.blogspot.com/ Shortly before the Korean conflict turned into a fully militarized war, Calvin Cho took his wife, Najin, and one of his daughters, Miran to the USA to raise money for a church. They decided to leave their other daughter, Inja, in the care of Najin's brother. Calvin worked as a translator and announcer for the US military radio. They did not foresee that it would be many years before the Korean War ended and their family situation would change. They desperately wanted Inja to join them or for them all to return to Korea. The plot circles the facts of that time in history. The narrative is a POV perspective given to us by each girl's inner monologue as they grow up, trying to cope with the lifestyles they cannot change. Miran loses her ability and desire to speak Korean. She becomes a typical American teenager, resenting her family for the sparse lifestyle of her family as they send every penny they make back to her family in Korea. Inja is a good student but lives a difficult life in poverty, taking care of her grandmother. Her love for her uncle is the shining light in her heart. She dreads the possibility of being forced to go to the USA. Her family is in Korea, her friends, her school. Inja's greatest fear is that her family will not return to Korea but demand that she goes to the USA. This novel mines the hearts and souls of victims of war, poverty, religious prejudice, and separation. We read about victims of war and dictatorships all over the world every day. Ms. Kim has given us a real story based on facts of an actual family's grief many years ago. This novel is a gift at a time when we need to read the inspiration that survival gives us at a time when so many suffering people are trying to flee similar situations. I received an advanced copy of this novel from the publisher through NetGalley.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Sarah MacIntyre

    I love historical fiction and have read many books but never one about Korea. This story based on the history of the authors own family is set between the Washington, DC and Seoul, Korea. A alternating story of two sisters - one taken for a new life in the US and one left with loving family in Korea. There was the promise they would be back for Inja not anticipating the outbreak of war. A truly heart wrenching story of loss of family, grief of the mother who left her child and the estranged sist I love historical fiction and have read many books but never one about Korea. This story based on the history of the authors own family is set between the Washington, DC and Seoul, Korea. A alternating story of two sisters - one taken for a new life in the US and one left with loving family in Korea. There was the promise they would be back for Inja not anticipating the outbreak of war. A truly heart wrenching story of loss of family, grief of the mother who left her child and the estranged sisters and their very different upbringing. I really loved this story. A fascinating insight into this period of history. Highly recommended.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Ness

    I had read recently about a Harry Potter-themed dinner that was very successful and sounded (surprisingly) high-brow. I found the concept interesting because even having read the books, I could only think of a few things mentioned that would be suitable for eating or drinking. Here in this book though, Cassandra Reeder draws on a number of films and books to put together a collection of delicious concoctions. In excellent news, ginger, cinnamon and citrus feature prominently in the recipes. I par I had read recently about a Harry Potter-themed dinner that was very successful and sounded (surprisingly) high-brow. I found the concept interesting because even having read the books, I could only think of a few things mentioned that would be suitable for eating or drinking. Here in this book though, Cassandra Reeder draws on a number of films and books to put together a collection of delicious concoctions. In excellent news, ginger, cinnamon and citrus feature prominently in the recipes. I particularly loved the recipe for Butterbeer, but the Mint Patty from Archer takes the prize for top drink for me! I have never seen Archer, but this version of a wicked hot chocolate (spiked with Peppermint Schnapps and Creme de Cacao) is so tasty! As a UK reader, I also love that the recipes include both imperial and metric measurements. Highly recommended for any fans of fantasy/sci-fi who fancy brewing up a few tipples from their favourite shows/books. Many thanks to NetGalley, Quarto Publishing and Cassandra Reeder for a copy of this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Pamela

    As tensions increase on the Korean peninsula, Miran and Inja’s parents decide to emigrate to the US. However, they leave Inja behind Korea with her grandparents. The parents tell their Korean family they will return the next year, but that year comes and goes and they are unable to return. Inja’s mother, Najin, sends packages home with presents for Inja inside not realizing how wildly inappropriate and confusing they are. When war breaks out in Korea, every one hopes it will be short. It isn’t, As tensions increase on the Korean peninsula, Miran and Inja’s parents decide to emigrate to the US. However, they leave Inja behind Korea with her grandparents. The parents tell their Korean family they will return the next year, but that year comes and goes and they are unable to return. Inja’s mother, Najin, sends packages home with presents for Inja inside not realizing how wildly inappropriate and confusing they are. When war breaks out in Korea, every one hopes it will be short. It isn’t, and privations suffered by the Korean people are incredible. Both sisters, living such disparate lives, begin to forget what the other even looks like. This is a story from a perspective little seen in historical fiction, i.e., told from the perspective of each of the sisters, it doesn’t take long for the reader to begin wondering how each will cope should the parents be able to reunite their family. This is an emotional read without being maudlin or overly dramatic. The author’s writing is fluid and the story well told. There are parts of the book that are hard to read, but are, nevertheless, fulfilling because the reader is invested in the what happens to the sisters.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Ruthie

    This is the story of a Korean family who emigrates to the U.S, leaving one child behind. The younger daughter, Inja, is left with her grandparents, aunt and uncle. The plan is that the family will return for her, but fate intercedes - war, finances, paperwork - they all contribute to the postponement of the reunion until Inja is well into her teens. The book follows Miran, as she grows up comfortably in Washington D.C and Inja, as she and her relatives face war, displacement, famine and more. In This is the story of a Korean family who emigrates to the U.S, leaving one child behind. The younger daughter, Inja, is left with her grandparents, aunt and uncle. The plan is that the family will return for her, but fate intercedes - war, finances, paperwork - they all contribute to the postponement of the reunion until Inja is well into her teens. The book follows Miran, as she grows up comfortably in Washington D.C and Inja, as she and her relatives face war, displacement, famine and more. Inja bonds with her grandparents and her Uncle while Miran struggles to understand her parents. We also read the mother, Najin's, diary as she records her thoughts and struggles. She feels tremendous guilt, has trouble assimilating and misses her family. Eventually Inja is sent for- at age 16 - and the family must learn to be whole again. Inja must assimilate to both American culture and her nuclear family, Miran must learn to be a sister. The author, Eugenia Kim, paints a very realistic picture of how each family member copes, first with the separation, then with the newly re-formed family. The emotions of anger, hurt, resentment, fear, guilt and love are all explored and feel true. The background of life in Korea vs life in the USA - where the Korean war was not in the headlines is also interesting - always love when I learn stuff! My favorite parts were reading about Miran and her mother sending care-packages to Korea and what they send provides a snapshot of American culture and also shows how the gifts are sometimes little luxuries, sometimes the means of survival. The novel is based on Kim's family's true story (modified) and Kim describes how later in life she asked her sister what the experience had been like for her and she used this as the basis of the story.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Janilyn Kocher

    The Kinship of Secrets is based on the author's family history. Two sisters are separated. One is taken to the US with her parents and the other is left with family in Korea. The narrative switches back and forth between the sisters and their different upbringing in different cultures. Eventually, the one sister is reunited so her family and years later travels back to Korea with her sister for a visit. The author wrote an engaging story. I hope there might be a third installment, since this boo The Kinship of Secrets is based on the author's family history. Two sisters are separated. One is taken to the US with her parents and the other is left with family in Korea. The narrative switches back and forth between the sisters and their different upbringing in different cultures. Eventually, the one sister is reunited so her family and years later travels back to Korea with her sister for a visit. The author wrote an engaging story. I hope there might be a third installment, since this book is a sequel to The Calligrapher's Daughter. Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Linda

    What a beautiful, sincere novel! One of the things I appreciate about The Kinship of Secrets is that it depicts a family that truly loves each other. There are points of tension, of course, but everyone fundamentally loves each other. There are no overly-harsh uncles or abusive grandparents; at most, an aunt that married in is a bit crabby. This produces a story with no antagonists other than war, separation, and time. The secrets alluded to in the title are not so flashy as hidden affairs or t What a beautiful, sincere novel! One of the things I appreciate about The Kinship of Secrets is that it depicts a family that truly loves each other. There are points of tension, of course, but everyone fundamentally loves each other. There are no overly-harsh uncles or abusive grandparents; at most, an aunt that married in is a bit crabby. This produces a story with no antagonists other than war, separation, and time. The secrets alluded to in the title are not so flashy as hidden affairs or treasure. Rather, most of the secrets are ways in which a character demonstrates love but wants to spare the recipient of how large a sacrifice they made for it. In most cases, the secret is kept out of respect and the desire not to trouble someone with painful details about the past. The overall plot is very loosely based on author Eugenia Kim's family story. A Korean couple has a chance to relocate to the United States after World War II, but they can only take one of their two infant daughters. They take Miran with them because she is more sickly, and leave Inja in the care of her uncle and grandparents in Seoul. The plan was always for Inja to join her parents and sister in America, but then the Korean War breaks out, and political developments delay a reunion until Inja is a teenager. The story is told from the perspectives of each sister, knowing the other is out there but inaccessible, until they finally get to meet someone who had only been a story to them before. The story unfolds gently, with no contrived plot twists that violate the characters that have been established. It's one of the most understated novels I've read, and among the most moving. Thank you to HMH and Goodreads for giving me an advance reader copy for review through a Giveaway.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Joanna

    I truly enjoyed reading this beautiful book! The writing was lovely, the characters were endearing and complex, and the details about life in Korea were fascinating. I can't wait to read more from Mrs. Kim. Thank you, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and NetGalley for an advance readers copy! "These writings expanded Inja's view of the world, even of her own national history in the way that only books can - by seeing through the eyes of the people who lived through those times, and others from foreign l I truly enjoyed reading this beautiful book! The writing was lovely, the characters were endearing and complex, and the details about life in Korea were fascinating. I can't wait to read more from Mrs. Kim. Thank you, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and NetGalley for an advance readers copy! "These writings expanded Inja's view of the world, even of her own national history in the way that only books can - by seeing through the eyes of the people who lived through those times, and others from foreign lands whose history and culture marked men so differently."

  22. 5 out of 5

    Cat

    A sweeping, historical, family saga in which two sisters are separated during the Korean War. One is raised in the United States and the other in South Korea. For fans of Pachinko. #netgalley #ARC #libraryreads #houghtonmifflerharcourt

  23. 5 out of 5

    Dianad0018

    I was tasked with reading the uncorrected proof of this book, and I gladly took on the responsibility, also seeing as it was a big opportunity to learn more about Korean people and a bit of Korean history. I LOVED it!! The book was so educational and enlightening from the small perspective of A Korean family during the difficult times... I was consumed and so addicted while reading the book. Taking into account it's a fiction based on a true story and real timeline, everything was so much more re I was tasked with reading the uncorrected proof of this book, and I gladly took on the responsibility, also seeing as it was a big opportunity to learn more about Korean people and a bit of Korean history. I LOVED it!! The book was so educational and enlightening from the small perspective of A Korean family during the difficult times... I was consumed and so addicted while reading the book. Taking into account it's a fiction based on a true story and real timeline, everything was so much more real. I can't express the emotions I felt while reading the story and the development as well as the pains and hardships of the two families, it was truly an emotional rollercoaster. What I loved the most about the writing and style; the short chapters with glimpses of the situations on both ends(Korean and American families) made is so much easier to read and most of all understand what they were going through. It was like experiencing everything as you were there. Worry was the first emotion I could grasp onto. Eugenia Kim did a great job with expressing the emotions of both sides of families at their time. Great respect!

  24. 4 out of 5

    Kati Berman

    The Kinship of Secrets I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This story is loosely based on the experiences of the author’s family and based on the very helpful author’s note at the end, it accurately represents the story of Korea from the end of WWII to the 1970’s. Two sisters separated nearly from birth are later reunited. Miran grows up in America with her parents, Inja is left behind with an Uncle, Aunt and grandparents. The novel details what led to their sepa The Kinship of Secrets I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This story is loosely based on the experiences of the author’s family and based on the very helpful author’s note at the end, it accurately represents the story of Korea from the end of WWII to the 1970’s. Two sisters separated nearly from birth are later reunited. Miran grows up in America with her parents, Inja is left behind with an Uncle, Aunt and grandparents. The novel details what led to their separation, the over 10 years living apart, their reunion in America and their return visit to Korea. As an immigrant to America, I could identify with both sisters, their experiences in America and their return to their native Korea. I found the first part of the book a little slow, and the last part rushed. I would have liked to see more balance. Overall, I learned a lot about Korea from reading this book and I am rating it 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4. Thanks NetGalley, the publisher and the author for the advanced copy.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    I could not put it down. I loved it and could not wait to see what would happen next. I love historical fiction. This book really made me much more aware of Korea, her people and her history. I had empathy for all the characters in this book. All of them were in difficult positions. There were many family secrets in this book. Inja seemed to think it was better to keep things secret. Maybe that is a Korean culture thing because I thought some of these secrets would be harmful. I am American and I could not put it down. I loved it and could not wait to see what would happen next. I love historical fiction. This book really made me much more aware of Korea, her people and her history. I had empathy for all the characters in this book. All of them were in difficult positions. There were many family secrets in this book. Inja seemed to think it was better to keep things secret. Maybe that is a Korean culture thing because I thought some of these secrets would be harmful. I am American and as a culture I think we are against secrets. I think both sisters were put in a hard place. It would be difficult to be the sister left in Korea and the one brought to America although in different ways.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Lucy

    The Kinship of Secrets fictionalises some of the true story of Eugenia Kim, whose sister was left in Korea, separated from her parents and siblings in the US. In this story, Inja is the sister in Korea, left as a young child in the charge of her beloved uncle, with the promise of a speedy reunion with her family in the US. With the onset of war in Korea comes division, poverty, and political instability which enforce a separation of a decade. The struggles of reunion years later are poignantly exp The Kinship of Secrets fictionalises some of the true story of Eugenia Kim, whose sister was left in Korea, separated from her parents and siblings in the US. In this story, Inja is the sister in Korea, left as a young child in the charge of her beloved uncle, with the promise of a speedy reunion with her family in the US. With the onset of war in Korea comes division, poverty, and political instability which enforce a separation of a decade. The struggles of reunion years later are poignantly expressed; the developing relationships between family members and their shared secrets continue to bind the family together across the miles. Emotional, with beautiful characterisation, highly recommended.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Glenda Nelms

    The main themes of the novel are family, war, time,separation and reconnection. Two sisters, one raised in the United States, the other in South Korea. The Korean war kept the two sisters apart. There are deep family secrets that are revealed in the book. It's about the power of family, faith and love that bound them together. It's based on Eugenia Kim's family story. Beautifully moving, enlightening and well-written.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Diane Dunn

    Thanks to Netgalley, the author and publishers for a copy of this book. Told through the perspective of two “sisters”, one who remains with grandparents and uncle in Korea and the other who emigrates with their“parents” to the U.S in search of better opportunities. Reuniting the family proves a struggle as the Korean War ensues. Very well written, seeing the struggle of the immigrant in a new country and the sister left behind. Interesting read as I knew little about this period of history.

  29. 4 out of 5

    katie kirmse

    The gripping story of a war torn family and the hurdles they face to reunite, it was impossible for me not to be roped in. This book was a window into a part of history entirely unfamiliar to me, and I am grateful to have been granted this glimpse.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Gaele

    I think that in today’s climate of nationalization and fears of the different that emigration and immigrants are subject to a serious lack of understanding – both of the difficulties faced when leaving your home and the place you feel comfortable and have support to a new space full of the unknown: language, customs, pace of life and even an understanding of just who you are. Kim tackles this and many other issues in this book, providing a rich understanding to those willing to let the book cons I think that in today’s climate of nationalization and fears of the different that emigration and immigrants are subject to a serious lack of understanding – both of the difficulties faced when leaving your home and the place you feel comfortable and have support to a new space full of the unknown: language, customs, pace of life and even an understanding of just who you are. Kim tackles this and many other issues in this book, providing a rich understanding to those willing to let the book consume them in ways unexpected. And I kid you not – this story will consume you as you see the difficult choices, the struggles on two sides of the world, and even the guilt, worry and attachments that never quite leave: that reference to ‘home’ being the place that was familiar and steeped in tradition, even as your feet are planted in the new. Spanning the years from the late 1940’s until the mid 70’s, this is a story of difficult choices and plans delayed: first by war and later by laws and governments, separating two sisters by oceans and opportunities, while the guilt from those choices informs lives and creates a sort of remove that is never really investigated until much later. When Najin and Calvin Cho take their eldest daughter Miran and head for America, the land of opportunity, they are leaving behind a young Inja with family, planning to bring her to join them soon. A heartbreaking decision for any parent, and we see Najin’s struggle with the choices made as the story progresses, and the two girls grow up separately – always wondering about that ‘mysterious sister” from away who is responsible for packages with toys, food, treats and hope. Surely as the two girls grow, and Miran struggles with ‘fitting in’ and wondering about the ‘mystery sister’ that seems to consume her parents’ focus, with the war, the deprivations and immigration laws, bringing Inja to America, originally planned to happen within a year or two, becomes a wait of near interminable time, Inja is not joining the family until she is 15 and thoroughly unaware of this ‘American’ family, so familiar is she with the Uncle and Grandparents she was left with years earlier. These people are now strangers, with experiences that are vastly different and diverse: Miran is a suburban Asian-American, perhaps not quite fitting into those around her, but so very unlike the newly arrived Inja with her wholly Korean outlook and familiarity with the life, food and culture, even upended by war, that just cannot be replicated in America, no matter how much her parents may wish to hold tight to what was. This book takes a reader on a ‘hear my story, understand that many things brought us here, and most aren’t instantly apparent’ sort of journey, with moments that are revelatory, others that are familiar and most wholly unfamiliar as the Cho’s navigate parenthood and life in a new country, then try to bring a child into a ‘crash course’ of what they’ve come to find is ‘normal’ from a very different place, right in the midst of her adolescence when the changes feel more a punishment than opportunity. With author notes that share this is a tale based in her own family history, and the clear presentation of the voices that share the known to everyone and the secrets, the story is gripping and provides readers with an understand that can, perhaps (I can only hope) allow them to see that emigration is never just a single, simple choice, or that the simple act of feet on the ground in the US doesn’t mean that everything else is simple, or clear. I’d encourage readers to pick up this book, full of emotion and choice, families and struggles, and a solid sense of cultural influences that inform the choices, beliefs and language use of the characters to great effect. I received an eArc copy of the title from the publisher via Edelweiss for purpose of honest review. I was nor compensated for this review, all conclusions are my own responsibility. Review first appeared at I am, Indeed

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