Synopses & Reviews
Read an essay by Chang-rae Lee here.
The bestselling, award-winning writer of Native Speaker, A Gesture Life, and Aloft returns with his biggest, most ambitious novel yet: a spellbinding story of how love and war echo through an entire lifetime.
With his three critically acclaimed novels, Chang-rae Lee has established himself as one of the most talented writers of contemporary literary fiction. Now, with The Surrendered, Lee has created a book that amplifies everything we've seen in his previous works, and reads like nothing else. It is a brilliant, haunting, heartbreaking story about how love and war inalterably change the lives of those they touch.
June Han was only a girl when the Korean War left her orphaned; 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 attentions of Sylvie Tanner, the beautiful yet deeply damaged missionary wife whose elusive love seemed to transform everything. Thirty years later and on the other side of the world, June and Hector are reunited in a plot that will force them to come to terms with the mysterious secrets of their past, and the shocking acts of love and violence that bind them together.
As Lee 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. Combining the complex themes of identity and belonging of Native Speaker and A Gesture Life with the broad range, energy, and pure storytelling gifts of Aloft, Chang-rae Lee has delivered his most ambitious, exciting, and unforgettable work yet. It is a mesmerizing novel, 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
"As with Lee's earlier novels, A Gesture Life
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
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.
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.
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.
From A to Z, the Penguin Drop Caps series collects 26 unique hardcoversfeaturing cover art by Jessica Hische
It all begins with a letter. Fall in love with Penguin Drop Caps, a new series of twenty-six collectible and hardcover editions, each with a type cover showcasing a gorgeously illustrated letter of the alphabet. In a design collaboration between Jessica Hische and Penguin Art Director Paul Buckley, the series features unique cover art by Hische, a superstar in the world of type design and illustration, whose work has appeared everywhere from Tiffany and Co. to Wes Anderson's recent film Moonrise Kingdom to Penguin's own bestsellers Committed and Rules of Civility. With exclusive designs that have never before appeared on Hische's hugely popular Daily Drop Cap blog, the Penguin Drop Caps series launches with six perennial favorites to give as elegant gifts, or to showcase on your own shelves.
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.
An epic tale of love, loyalty, and war from the acclaimed author of Monkey Bridge
Half a century after it began, the Vietnam War still has a hold on our national psyche. Lan Caos now-classic debut, Monkey Bridge, won her wide renown for connecting . . . the opposite realities of Vietnam and America” (Isabel Allende). In her triumphant new novel, Cao transports readers back to the war, illuminating events central to twentieth-century history through the lives of one Vietnamese American family.
Minh is a former South Vietnamese commander of the airborne brigade who left his homeland with his daughter, Mai. During the war, their lives became entwined with those of two Americans: James, a soldier, and Cliff, a military adviser. Forty years later, Minh and his daughter Mai live in a close-knit Vietnamese immigrant community in suburban Virginia. As Mai discovers a series of devastating truths about what really happened to her family during those years, Minh reflects upon his life and the story of love and betrayal that has remained locked in his heart since the fall of Saigon.
About the Author
is the author of A Gesture Life
, Native Speakers
and The Surrendered
. He won the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award, among other honors, for his novel Native Speaker
, and was selected by the New Yorker
as one of the twenty best American writers under forty. His novels have also won Asian American Literary Award, the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature, and other awards. The Surrendered
was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. He lives in New Jersey with his family.
Jessica Hische is a letterer, illustrator, typographer, and web designer. She currently serves on the Type Directors Club board of directors, has been named a Forbes Magazine "30 under 30" in art and design as well as an ADC Young Gun and one of Print Magazines "New Visual Artists". She has designed for Wes Anderson, McSweeney's, Tiffany and Co, Penguin Books and many others. She resides primarily in San Francisco, occasionally in Brooklyn.