Sunday, February 22, 2009
Still Life With Rice by Helie Lee
Published: 1997, 320 pages
Review: 4.5/5 stars
Still Life With Rice by Helie Lee is the kind of book that can be a little difficult to read. The accounts of suffering due to war and child abuse are hard to read but without them the book would not give an accurate account of a strong, brave, faithful woman.
This book is written by Helie Lee but mostly in the voice of her grandmother. In the first chapter Helie writes about her frustration with her mother and grandmother who think that Helie has become too Americanized and should be more Korean. Even though she disagrees with them she decides to go back to Korea where she was born. There she meets relatives who revere her grandmother and she can't quite understand why. She decides to find out more about her family history and that is how her grandmother's story comes to be told in this book. After the first chapter the narrative switches to the voice of her grandmother and it begins with her birth in what is now North Korea.
I've mentioned before that I was a missionary in South Korea so this book was especially dear to me. I wish that I had known more about Korea's history before I went over there. They are a very humble but strong people and after reading this book, I can understand why. Though this book doesn't always seem to be really well written, I thought the content made up for it. I really enjoyed learning more about the history and culture of this divided nation but the truly compelling part of the book was the relationships of the family members.
I have friends that have told me that they just can't read a book with child abuse in it and if that is the case for you, I don't recommend this book. That part is just in the beginning but it is heart-breaking, so be forewarned. If you liked Wild Swans or The Good Earth, I highly recommend this book. I thought about both of them as I was reading Still Life With Rice.