I Went To See My Father: A Novel
An instant bestseller in Korea and the follow up to the international bestseller, Please Look After Mom; centering on a woman’s efforts to reconnect with her aging father, uncovering long-held family secrets.
Two years after losing her daughter in a tragic accident, Hon finally returns to her home in the countryside to take care of her father. At first, her father only appears withdrawn and fragile, an aging man, awkward but kind around his own daughter. Then, after stumbling upon a chest of letters, Hon discovers the truth of her father’s past and reconstructs her own family history.
Consumed with her own grief, Hon had been blind to her father’s vulnerability and her family’s fragility. Unraveling secret after secret and thanks to conversations with loving family and friends, Hon grows closer to her father, who proves to be more complex than she ever gave him credit for. After living through one of the most tumultuous times in Korean history, her father’s life was once vibrant and ambitious, but spiraled during the postwar years. Now, after years of emotional isolation, Hon learns the whole truth, from her father’s affair and involvement in a religious sect, to the dynamic lives of her own siblings, to her family’s financial hardships.
What Hon uncovers about her father builds towards her understanding of the great scope of his sacrifice and heroism, and of his generation as a whole. More than just the portrait of a single man, I Went to See My Father opens a window onto humankind, family, loss, and war. With this long-awaited follow-up to Please Look After Mom—flawlessly rendered by award-winning translator Anton Hur—Kyung-Sook Shin has crafted an ambitious, global, epic, and lasting novel.
Praise for I Went To See My Father: A Novel
"A powerful and haunting novel about family, war, loss, and fatherhood."
—Pierce Alquist, Book Riot
"Kyung-Sook Shin’s I Went to See My Father, deftly translated by Anton Hur, is a quietly epic contemplation on grief and the relationships, responsibilities, and expectations between family members."
—Lauren Bo, World Literature Today
"Shin successfully crafts yet another beautifully presented and heart-rending tale, giving readers much to ponder. Not to be missed, it will appeal not just to fans of Please Look After Mom but to anyone who enjoys strong, introspective storytelling; also a good candidate for book groups."
—Shirley Quan, Library Journal (starred review)
"[An] entrancing, subtly insightful novel . . . I Went to See My Father is one of the most fair and balanced treatments I’ve seen of the estrangement that can accompany growing up. This novel, in excellent translation by Anton Hur, is a well-crafted work of realist fiction that explores the power of communication to bring families to a point of greater understanding . . . The way Kyung-Sook Shin draws characters, revealing them layer by nuanced layer, is a marvel. How fortunate we are to have this translation by Anton Hur, providing English-speaking audiences access to the talents of one of South Korea’s most lauded contemporary authors."
—David Vogel, Words Without Borders
"What begins as a family melodrama becomes a fascinating piece of historical fiction . . . Shin’s profound and passionate love for her home country and its traditions is manifest."
—Douglas MacLeod, On the Seawall
"[Comprising] quiet, tender exchanges between father and daughter . . . [I Went to See My Father] is a slow and deeply interior novel, dense with memories."
—Jung Yun, The Washington Post
"Touching . . . Like life itself, this digressive meditation alternates from moments of dullness to startling beauty."
"Once more, Shin masterfully glides between quotidian details and astounding feats of survival revealed through multiple voices (older brothers, their mother, a wartime friend) and formats (letters, recordings, long chat messages) to create another universally empathic masterpiece."
—Terry Hong, Booklist (starred review)
"Gentle yet piercing . . . [I Went to See My Father is a] sensitively crafted family portrait that's both specific and universal and, above all, humane."
"This is one you’ll definitely want to put on your literary map."
—Erin Kodicek, Amazon Book Review
"Viewers and readers of Korean dramas and novels love a bit of teary nostalgia, and Shin provides it here in spades, and does a good job of it, too . . . Readers who enjoyed Please Look After Mom will find a lot to like here. I Went to See My Father is an interesting work looking at the life of a man who lived through one of the most turbulent periods of Korea’s history, as well as a reminder to the young (and not so young) that older people, our parents and grandparents, lived lives of their own, and have stories that are well worth listening to."
—Tony Malone, Tony's Reading List
"This is a book which reminds us that we all suffer from the same wounds, that no individual is free from the pains of their geography and that the greatest losses can only be healed where they all begin. Shin, once again, brings the unique history of a distant land into our homes and masterfully catches our hearts from the core, from the familiar bond of a child and a father. "
—Defne Suman, author of The Silence of Scheherazade and At The Breakfast Table
"A book that makes you hurt all over, and yet smile at the same time. A book where the experience being shared is so immediately palpable, so universal yet Korean, and beautiful and powerful at the same time."
—Kim Hyesoon, award-winning author of Autobiography of Death
"Kyung-Sook Shin is the writer who made me into a writer. Reading her novel The Girl Who Wrote Loneliness made me discover a loneliness and unsettledness inside me that I didn't know existed, and thus comforted me on a sincere level. I Went to See My Father features the author's hallmark emotional richness combined with a precision of language that pierces the soul. I Went to See My Father shows us an entire generation that suffered through war, in the single character of a father, a modest cattle farmer. Just as Shin's Please Look After Mom gives a voice to the forgotten mother, this novel vividly shows the father as a figure whom we often overlook. Through a narrative so true as to be almost autobiographical, Shin guides us on a journey of heartache to literary catharsis."
—Sang Young Park, author of Love in the Big City
"An insightful contemplation of memory and connectedness between family members. Shin threads together a lyrical family drama and the multilayered spectrum of Korean history in a compelling epic. It is not only a story of love and pain between father and daughter, but of how memories can heal tragic wounds and restore damaged relationships. A powerful, elegant, page-turner."
—J.M. Lee, author of Broken Summer