The Guest

I just finished The Guest by Hwang Sok-Yong, a notable author in both North and South Korea.

It follows a younger brother as he traces his life back home to North Korea and away from the Korean peninsula, his life before the civil war, and the cultural identity issues he and his family had as Christians in a Buddhist society.

With any other book I most likely would be complaining about the jumping around from first person perspective to third person and the different narrators in the first person. But for this particular book, it works, to see the same situation from different eyes and memories.

I don’t doubt that during the 1940s there was a backlash against Christians, and not just the Catholics, but that’s completely opposite of today’s religious life in South Korea, where it seems like one out of every three people that you meet are evangelical Christians. And the comparisons of the outbreak of smallpox to the explosion of Christianity in Korea were eye-opening.

By the time I finished the book, I wanted to read the author’s autobiography, because I’m now extremely curious how much of The Guest is based off of his personal life and experiences. If you’re interested in life before, during and after the Korean Civil War, this is a must read.

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