I always look forward to reading a collection of short stories, especially when they are written well and leave an impact on my mind and emotions. Short stories are like wistful appetizers, that leave you wanting more and that one bite sometimes is just not enough. I had to make this analogy because this is what came to mind, when I finished reading, “Drifting House” by Krys Lee.
Drifting House is a collection of nine stories, spanning across North Korea, South Korea and America. The tales but obviously aren’t a happy read. The stories are centered on themes of love, loss, home, and sense of belonging. Starting from Korea and ending in America, one can clearly see the difference in culture and how Koreans are also treated in a different country.
The title story, “Drifting House” is about children escaping a famine situation in North Korea and the horrifying sacrifices they have to make in order to survive. The stories spark and only because they are so real. Krys writes with such elegance and grace that the reader gets drawn in the struggle of the characters. Lee wants us to feel this way as she takes on themes in her book and yes to some extent, I did end up feeling that way.
My favourite story in the entire collection is, “A Temporary Marriage” – where a mother leaves Korea after being abandoned by her husband, who has also kidnapped their daughter. She marries a man in America, only to be close to her daughter, and she feels nothing for the man. The Believer on the other hand is a more violent story in the book of losing faith and the search for God at the same time.
Lee’s characters are as human as you and I, though going through difficult times and situations. The collection according to me will find resonance also beyond the audience who are fascinated with Korea anyway. The language is a bit much, in the sense that it takes time for the reader to set in to the story, however that is only initially. For me, there were deeper meanings hidden in the pages of this book and I loved discovering them.