Review in 10ish words: Haunting, raw and chaotic- That is how I would describe this metaphysical fairy tale
Elsa Park is an experimental Physicist- spending her days between Antarctica and Sweden, and avoiding the family and life she has in America.
Her father is scary and violent, her brother resentful and lovable and her mother is a mystery. Years ago, before the spa incident, her mother had warned Elsa of the destiny she was doomed to fulfil because of her ancestors- Tragedy forces Elsa to return to her parent’s home but it also forces her to start to unravel years of family secrets.
The book interweaves Elsa’s current life, her childhood and the myths and legends that haunt and drive her.
(CN: Racially motivated assault/violence, drug use, mental illness inc. references to hallucinations, domestic violence, references to miscarriage).
I am not sure what I was expecting when I started this book. But when I haven’t been reading it I have found myself thinking about it. I am pretty sure I even dreamed about it last week?
I enjoyed the perspective Elsa gave of being a woman in STEM academics- A Korean-American woman at that. The story also strongly touches on themes such as family, intergenerational trauma, immigration, transnational adoption, expatriation, racism and Korean mythology/folklore.
The author has ingeniously weaved reality and magical realism to explore grief and guilt.
I will say parts of it made me feel gritty- but I think that was part of the purpose of the book. I also appreciate how Elsa was presented- she is one of the most authentic characters I have read.
This story is very different to anything I have read or experienced and I think the thoughts and feelings it has evoked will sit with me for a long while. I did connect with her feelings on being an expat- At times I felt like Elsa was saying what I sometimes think.
All in all, I would recommend this book again and again.
Thank you to Netgalley and Erowhon books for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.