Author: Frances Cha
Genre: Literary Fiction
Publisher: Ballentine Books
Publication Date: April 21, 2020
Book Description: Kyuri is an achingly beautiful woman with a hard-won job at a Seoul “room salon,” an exclusive underground bar where she entertains businessmen while they drink. Though she prides herself on her cold, clear-eyed approach to life, an impulsive mistake threatens her livelihood.
Kyuri’s roommate, Miho, is a talented artist who grew up in an orphanage but won a scholarship to study art in New York. Returning to Korea after college, she finds herself in a precarious relationship with the heir to one of the country’s biggest conglomerates.
Down the hall in their building lives Ara, a hairstylist whose two preoccupations sustain her: an obsession with a boy-band pop star, and a best friend who is saving up for the extreme plastic surgery that she hopes will change her life.
And Wonna, one floor below, is a newlywed trying to have a baby that she and her husband have no idea how they can afford to raise in Korea’s brutal economy.
Together, their stories tell a gripping tale at once unfamiliar and unmistakably universal, in which their tentative friendships may turn out to be the thing that ultimately saves them.
Rating: 3.75 Stars
Review: I am not sure how this book got past me, but thanks to the podcast Bad on Paper making this their February book club pick, I was able to immerse myself in this story of four Korean woman trying to make their way in the world.
Told from four points of view, Ara, Kyuri, Wonna and Miho, we get a rich story of the difficulty of woman making it in Korea, where beauty is a woman’s highest asset. Ara is a mute woman, who styles hair, Kyuri who works at a “room salon”, Miho is an upcoming artist, and Wonna, married and expecting her first child. Whiles their lives are all interconnected each woman’s story stands on their own.
Frances Cha, wrote a beautiful immersive tale that I did not want to end. Though I personally know little about this culture, I feel like I was there living it, with all her lush descriptions. This is a hard life many of these women live, but somehow make it work. These women are smart and should be valued so much higher than just looks.
If you are like me, and this open got by you, I implore you to give this one a try. Ultimately this a very satisfying read.