Although Korea has played an important part in our political history, Americans in general are unfamiliar with Korean literature and the traditional customs of that country. Now, thanks to Eugenia Kim, the daughter of Korean parents who came to the United States after World War II, we are afforded a tantalizing glimpse into a traditional way of life.
Miss Kim's first novel, "The Calligrapher's Daughter," is a rich, elegant tapestry woven of the threads of the events in her mother's life. As she explains, the "ghost story" she started writing about her maternal grandfather "kept growing and wouldn't let me go. … [I]t was a touchstone for the wealth of family lore I'd heard throughout my life." Vivid as the family stories were, Miss Kim felt they would best come alive through fiction. What she has created in "The Calligrapher's Daughter" is a story and characters that indeed have a life of their own.
The novel is a mix of eventful third-person storytelling, a vivid first-person account by the main character, Najin Han and the evocative letters of Hajin's mother to her daughter, revealing the innate complicity between daughter and mother and the strength of the latter's Christian faith and traditional concepts. The combination of voices gives the novel an extra layer of depth and excitement.