The Kinship of Secrets by Eugenia Kim

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 ahead, 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.

Release Date: November 1st // Bloomsbury

This story blindsided me with the depth of the narrative and the underlying social narrative interwoven throughout. Miran and Inja are sisters who are separated due to circumstance and the ensuing Korean War. We get to follow both their lives as they grow up through the 1950s to the 1970s. Eugenia Kim uses the sisters and their alternate lives as a form of contrast between the relatively rich and safe lives of those living in the US and the poverty and uncertainty of those in South Korea.

It is certainly well researched and draws upon personal experiences, giving the narrative a depth and validity. I particularly enjoyed the first half of the book – following their lives as children. the latter half had larger time jumps, losing some of the intimacy between reader and characters as the author began to tie the story together.

However, both Miran and Inja have unique voices which are easily identified throughout the book. They are created as individuals and not carbon copies of one another. Their different upbringings are made clear to the reader with Miran growing up with American ideals while Inja is instilled with Korean ideologies. This becomes apparent as the secrets mentioned in the title are revealed to Inja, she maintains a reserved nature and a strong sense of familial responsibility which as she grows older begins to weigh on her. This depth is what drew me towards Inja’s story more than Miran’s although her story of adapting to a culture within a family she doesn’t entirely feel like she belongs is enlightening and together with Inja’s story, this makes the reader appreciate the upbringing that they have received. Some of the thoughts that are explored in this book may be unfamiliar to those who have grown up in Western households, but the narrative helps to illustrate the meaning behind why the families behave the way that they do.

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