9781590516737

I’LL BE RIGHT THERE

Kyung Sook Shin

How friendship, European literature, and a charismatic professor defy war, oppression, and the absurd

Set in 1980s South Korea amid the tremors of political revolution, I’ll Be Right There follows Jung Yoon, a highly literate, twenty-something woman, as she recounts her tragic personal history as well as those of her three intimate college friends. When Yoon receives a distressing phone call from her ex-boyfriend after eight years of separation, memories of a tumultuous youth begin to resurface, forcing her to re-live the most intense period of her life. With profound intellectual and emotional insight,

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How friendship, European literature, and a charismatic professor defy war, oppression, and the absurd

Set in 1980s South Korea amid the tremors of political revolution, I’ll Be Right There follows Jung Yoon, a highly literate, twenty-something woman, as she recounts her tragic personal history as well as those of her three intimate college friends. When Yoon receives a distressing phone call from her ex-boyfriend after eight years of separation, memories of a tumultuous youth begin to resurface, forcing her to re-live the most intense period of her life. With profound intellectual and emotional insight, she revisits the death of her beloved mother, the strong bond with her now-dying former college professor, the excitement of her first love, and the friendships forged out of a shared sense of isolation and grief.

Yoon’s formative experiences, which highlight both the fragility and force of personal connection in an era of absolute uncertainty, become immediately palpable. Shin makes the foreign and esoteric utterly familiar: her use of European literature as an interpreter of emotion and experience bridges any gaps between East and West. Love, friendship, and solitude are the same everywhere, as this book makes poignantly clear.

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Price: $15.95

ISBN: 9781590516737

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About Kyung Sook Shin

Kyung-sook Shin, the author of seventeen works of is one of South Korea’s most widely read and acclaimed novelists. Her best seller Please Look After Mom has been translated into more than thirty languages. She has been honored with the Man Asian Literary Prize, the Manhae Prize, the Dong-in Literary Award, the Yi Sang Literary Prize, and France’s Prix de l’Inaperçu, as well as the Ho-Am Prize in the Arts, awarded for her body of work for general achievement in Korean culture and the arts.

Praise

“The shimmering, lucid tones and silver melancholy of I’ll Be Right There give readers a South Korea peopled with citizens fighting for honor and intellectual freedom, and longing for love and solace. Kyung-Sook Shin’s characters have unforgettable voices—it’s no wonder she has so many fans.”Susan Straight, author of Between Heaven and Here and National Book Award Finalist

“A wonderful, heartbreaking story that lingered with me long after the last page was turned. As the powerful story unfolded, I enjoyed peeling away the complicated, dark layers of every character. Kyung-sook Shin’s beautiful depictions of love and sweet adolescent confessions will take you back in time to your first heartbreak.”PP Wong, Editor-in-Chief, Banana Writers

“Tender and mournful, the latest novel from best-selling South Korean novelist Shin (Please Look after Mom, 2011) considers young love and loss in an era of political ferment…Shin’s uncomplicated yet allusive narrative voice delivers another calmly affecting story, simultaneously foreign and familiar.”Kirkus Reviews

“Shin’s perspective on relationships is nuanced; she doesn’t shy away from what is complex, complicated or painful in everyday human connections…There is also vibrancy and richness in the lives of her characters, and an understanding of love and solitude that is universal.”Electric Literature

Discussion Questions

Which two characters do you feel share the strongest bond with one another? Are there any two that have an especially powerful connection, and if so, what makes their connection more compelling?

Do you think that this book has an optimistic or a pessimistic view of friendship and first loves?

What role does memory play in I’ll Be Right There? What might Shin be looking to say about our relationship to it?

What role does Professor Yoon play in everyone’s lives, and why is his death so significant? What does he “teach” Jung, Myungush, and Miru? Have you experienced a similar connection to a professor?

The characters in I’ll Be Right There are continually confronted by the impermanence of life and the pain of losing what is closest to them. What effect might this have on them both personally and politically?

What are Shin’s strengths and weaknesses as a writer? Do you prefer her narrative construction, her characters, her prose style, or some other aspect of her writing? Is she comparable to any other writers stylistically?

When Yoon observes Dahn’s equal fascination and fear of spiders, she wonders if love and fear share the same root. Are there other instances in the book when someone both loves and fears something?

The book contains many allusions to other writers, including Emily Dickinson. What do you think this book is trying to say about the use of art and literature in the face of politics and violence, and the power of literature as a link between people?

At one point, Myungush wonders “What would have happened to us if it weren’t for Yoon?” Why does Yoon becomes so integral to the relationship between Miru and Myungush?

Why doesn’t Yoon speak to Myungsuh about Dahn’s death? What are other instances in this book when someone keeps a secret, and why do you think they do so?

What does this novel teach us about the ways in which we can better cope with loss and grief in our own lives?