The Kinship of Secrets

Written by Eugenia Kim
Review by Viviane Crystal

What would make a Korean couple, needing to travel to America for safer and better opportunities, leave behind their natural daughter and take an adopted daughter to the United States in the 1950s? These two sisters, the same age but for a few months, grow up in different countries: Inja in Korea, with numerous questions about her mother and father across the world, and Miran in America, wondering about the girl her mother, Najin, mourns for daily.

Meanwhile, gifts are exchanged overseas with benign letters, especially difficult with the onset and ending of the Korean War. What makes this story extraordinary are the reflections of all family members, including some surrealistic dreams that add to Inja’s sense of deep love for her grandparents and heightened with one haunting scene about her grandfather’s grave. When the sisters are finally united, the reader has an inside look not only at Inja’s adjustment to American life but also how her family in Korea adjusts to life without her. Secrets are gradually revealed that are shocking in one sense but add to the story’s historical importance.

Beautiful descriptions of the Korean mountains, temples and cemeteries add to Inja’s reflections and later forge a deeper connection between Inja and Miran, who remembers nothing about her Korean childhood. The character depictions are heightened by variety and complexity, drawing the reader into their lives and story in a dramatic fashion.

Eugenia Kim is a talented writer who has crafted a strikingly tender, tough, and intelligent story that includes a totally different aspect of the Korean War and politics. Highly recommended historical fiction!