The Korean Word For Butterfly by James Zerndt
Book 2 in my January Kindle Challenge
In the year 2000, in the closest election in American history, Alice Blackwell’s husband becomes president of the United States. Their time in the White House proves to be heady, tumultuous, and
Set against the backdrop of the 2002 World Cup, The Korean Word For Butterfly is told from three alternating points-of-view:
Billie, the young wanna-be poet looking for adventure with her boyfriend who soon finds herself questioning her decision to travel so far from the comforts of American life;
Moon, the ex K-pop band manager who now works at the English school struggling to maintain his sobriety in hopes of getting his family back;
And Yun-ji , a secretary at the school whose new feelings of resentment toward Americans may lead her to do something she never would have imagined possible.
I had no idea what I would think of this novel, but it is one of the many I had downloaded onto my Kindle which I am determined to make a dent in this month!
Set in Korea, this follows three characters – Billie, an American who has come to Korea with her boyfriend to be a teacher, Moon, a former alcoholic who is keen to build bridges with his estranged wife and son, and Yun-Ji, who is drifting through life with an alcoholic father. The novel is told in a very straightforward and easy to read style, which I liked and I found myself sucked into the story straight away.
I really liked the Korean setting of this novel, and it did feel a if the author had done his research and knew the country, its people and traditions well. I also found all the characters interesting, and didn’t find the three separate stories, which were only very tenuously linked, to be confusing. I was interested in all the characters, and wanted to find out more about them.
And in fact this is where I ultimately felt let down by this novel – I didn’t really feel by the end that I knew enough about any of the characters. It is never clear why Billie and her boyfriend have come to Korea, and I also wanted to find out more about Yun-Ji and her life. I needed more of each story, and maybe less of some of the more superfluous stuff – although all the characters work in the same school, I found some of the classroom scenes to be a bit dull and I found myself losing interest in these sections.
Overall I enjoyed reading this novel and would read more by this author, but at the end of this novel I did feel a bit unsatisfied. I felt it could have gone into more detail, and it was a shame to have created such interesting characters but not have found out more about them.