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The Surrenderedby Chang-rae Lee
"As with Lee's earlier novels, A Gesture Life and Aloft among them, language is king in The Surrendered. The astonishing precision of imagery, of verb choices, of sentence cadence and rhythm, is so accomplished that, like all masters, Lee makes the writing look far simpler than it is." Debra Gwartney, The Oregonian (Read the entire Oregonian review)
Synopses & Reviews
A brilliant, haunting story about beauty, loyalty, memory, and war-an unforgettable novel that returns to themes of expatriatism and Korean culture that first made Chang-rae Lee's reputation.
The bestselling and award-winning author of Native Speaker, A Gesture Life, and Aloft returns with a masterful new novel. A spellbinding story, startling in its insights and impact, The Surrendered amplifies the gifts we have seen in Lee's previous works, and, written in the third person, evokes a whole new narrative power.
In The Surrendered, the lasting memory of the Korean War changes the lives of two of its survivors — a Korean girl and an American vet — as well as the lives of those who come to know them. Hector Brennan was a handsome GI stationed in Korea during the war. June Han was a girl orphaned by the fighting. For a season of wartime existence, their lives overlapped at a missionary-run orphanage. Now, thirty years later, they are reunited in the United States in an unusual mission that will force them to come to terms with their individual experiences of that time, but also the secret they share.
As Chang-rae Lee moves back and forth between 1950s Korea and 1980s New York, New Jersey, and Italy, he weaves a stunning, layered story — exploring issues of class, identity, cultural memory, loyalty, betrayal, and personal reinvention — in the subtly emotional way that readers have come to expect. Building to a powerful revelation of the novel's captivating mystery, this is a beautiful, mesmerizing work, elegantly suspenseful and deeply affecting.
"Lee's masterful fourth novel (after Aloft) bursts with drama and human anguish as it documents the ravages and indelible effects of war. June Han is a starving 11-year-old refugee fleeing military combat during the Korean War when she is separated from her seven-year-old twin siblings. Eventually brought to an orphanage near Seoul by American soldier Hector Brennan, who is still reeling from his father's death, June slowly recovers from her nightmarish experiences thanks to the loving attention of Sylvie Tanner, the wife of the orphanage's minister. But Sylvie is irretrievably scarred as well, having witnessed her parents' murder by Japanese soldiers in 1934 Manchuria. These traumas reverberate throughout the characters' lives, determining the destructive relationship that arises between June, Hector and Sylvie as the plot rushes forward and back in time, encompassing graphic scenes of suffering, carnage and emotional wreckage. Powerful, deeply felt, compulsively readable and imbued with moral gravity, the novel does not peter out into easy redemption. It's a harrowing tale: bleak, haunting, often heartbreaking — and not to be missed." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"[The Surrendered] is epic in scope, masterful in execution, heart stopping at times, and heartbreaking at others....Lee understands that in art and in stories what is perhaps most valuable is not what can be explained but what can be felt." Boston Globe
"This is not a happy book, but it is a rewarding one. The Surrendered grabs your attention — sometimes terrifying you in the process — and doesn't let go until its final moment...Its pages are breathtakingly alive." San Francisco Chronicle
"Extremely well written, powerfully moving in places." New Yorker
"A landmark novel about love and war. . . Chang-rae Lee's The Surrendered . . . is impossible to put down." O, The Oprah Magazine
"A completely engrossing story of great complexity and tragedy. Lee's ability to describe his characters' sufferings, both physical and mental, is extraordinarily vivid; one is left in awe of the human soul's ability to survive the most horrific experiences." Library Journal
Combining the complex themes of identity in Native Speaker and A Gesture Life with the broad range, energy, and pure storytelling of Aloft, Lee has delivered his most ambitious work yet. It is a mesmerizing novel, elegantly suspenseful and deeply affecting.
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L is for Lee. Korean American Henry Park is surreptitious, B+ student of life, illegal alien, emotional alien, Yellow peril: neo-American, stranger, follower, traitor, spy ” or so says his wife, in the list she writes upon leaving him. Henry is forever uncertain of his place, a perpetual outsider looking at American culture from a distance. And now, a man of two worlds, he is beginning to fear that he has betrayed both and belongs to neither. Chang-Rae Lees first novel Native Speaker is a raw and lyrical evocation of the immigrant experience and of the question of identity itself.
Chang-rae Lee, the bestselling and award-winning author of Native Speaker, A Gesture Life, and Aloft returns with his most ambitious novel yet-a spellbinding story of how love and war echo through an entire lifetime.
June Han was orphaned as a girl by the Korean War. Hector Brennan was a young GI who fled the petty tragedies of his small town to serve his country. When the war ended, their lives collided at a Korean orphanage, where they vied for the attention of Sylvie Tanner, a beautiful yet deeply damaged missionary.
As Lee masterfully unfurls the stunning story of June, Hector, and Sylvie, he weaves a profound meditation on the nature of heroism and sacrifice, the power of love, and the possibilities for mercy, salvation, and surrendering oneself to another.
About the Author
Chang-rae Lee is the author of Aloft, A Gesture Life, and Native Speaker, and a winner of the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award for first fiction. Selected by the New Yorker as one of the twenty best writers under forty, Chang-rae Lee teaches writing at Princeton University.
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