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"Myers does something truly incredible
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Set against the backdrop of the 2002 World Cup and rising anti-American sentiment due to a deadly accident involving two young Korean girls and a U.S. tank, The Korean Word For Butterfly is told from three alternating points-of-view:
Billie, the young wanna-be poet looking for adventure with her boyfriend who soon finds herself questioning her decision to travel so far from the comforts of American life;
Moon, the ex K-pop band manager who now works at the English school struggling to maintain his sobriety in hopes of getting his family back;
And Yun-ji , a secretary at the school whose new feelings of resentment toward Americans may lead her to do something she never would have imagined possible.
The Korean Word For Butterfly is a story about the choices we make and why we make them. It is a story, ultimately, about the power of love and redemption.
Very occasionally you pick up a book and from the very first page you know you are reading something quite special. Well, The Korean Word For Butterfly falls comfortably into this category with Zerndt delivering a thought-provoking, commanding and highly satisfying read. Beautifully written it splendidly articulates the complexities, failings and contradictions that often obscure the path ahead and has everything from drama and romance to powerful moral undertones that encourage much by way of reflection. Set against the Yangju highway incident and ensuing anti-American sentiment at that time don’t be fooled into thinking this is in anyway a mawkish tale. Zerndt brings a certain subtlety to his prose that ensures his story is never held hostage to the subject and through his cleverly nuanced characters offers us a unique perspective on the choices we make and the struggles that ultimately define us. Billie, Moon and Yun-ji are far from saccharin characters and this brings edgy overtures to their story as events evolve. Three separate lives and yet each intrinsically linked. Add to this Zerdnt’s exquisite ear for dialogue, a masterfully crafted plot and a superb ending and it’s hard to turn the last page without reflecting upon our universal need for belonging, peace and happiness.
A simply superb novel from a gifted author and highly deserving of a place on your bookshelf, The Korean Word For Butterfly is recommended without reservation.
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A story about the choices we make and why we make them.
James Zerndt is the author of THE CLOUD SEEDERS, THE KOREAN WORD FOR BUTTERFLY, and BRAILLING FOR WILE. His short story, "THIS JERKWATER LIFE", was recently chosen as an Editor's Pick in Amazon's Kindle Singles store. He received an MFA in Writing from Pacific University and now lives in Portland, Oregon, with his wife and son and their adorable debts.