The Liberators

Tin House. Nov. 2023. 304p. ISBN 9781959030157. $27.95. F
DEBUT Award-winning poet and memoirist Koh (The Magical Language of Others) makes her fiction debut with a story about a young couple in their early 20s, Sungho and Insuk, who are in an arranged marriage and emigrate from South Korea to San Jose, California, in the 1980s. Their story continues through 2014 with tales of Insuk’s life as a working mother, the growing dissension between her and her mother-in-law, and the struggles in her marriage. Koh also adds the voice of the couple’s son Henry to the mix and details his experiences. The novel looks at assimilation in a new country and advancement in life and society and touches upon the politics of thought between North and South Koreans. Readers who find satisfaction in deep and emotionally drawn characterizations and storylines will not find it here. Instead, they will savor a richly multilayered tale presenting snippets of the lives and stories behind these characters while simultaneously exploring immigrant and Asian American experiences.
VERDICT Koh’s work should resonate strongly, with its focus on the desire of wanting to be seen and to belong, regardless of the histories that shape the individual.
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