du beonjjae gihoe

It has been said that you never get a second chance to make a first impression. After reading “The Korean Word for Butterfly” by James Zerndt, I would argue that this is not true.

After my inconsiderate review of “The Cloud Seeders,” (in which I’m now almost embarrassed to admit I suggested that had I paid for the book, I would have returned it for my money back, while still stating that I’d still like to read his other novel) Zerndt was kind enough to lend me a copy of “The Korean Word for Butterfly.”

Apparently, there was indeed something about Zerndt’s writing skill that kept me drawn into “The Cloud Seeders,” in spite of an overall distaste for the book. I suffered no similar disappointments regarding “The Korean Word for Butterfly.”

“The Korean Word for Butterfly” is a moving novel that addresses racial stereotypes, relationships, unplanned pregnancy and abortion. Each character is beautifully written and developed with clear motivations, ready to take wing from the page into the reader’s imagination.

The book follows the story of two young Americans, Billie and Joe, who falsely apply to teach English to Korean students, as well as several members of the Korean school system they meet along the way. Each individual character emerges fresh and new from their chrysalis, empathetically formed with a back-story that allows the reader to draw a deep connection. In the midst of Billie and Joe’s short tenure with the Korean school, tragedy strikes Korea when two young girls are run over by an American tank, and they find themselves struggling not only to maintain their charade but to learn how to cope with a new level of anti-American sentiment within this foreign country.

There are brilliant touches of classic irony interwoven into “The Korean Word for Butterfly.” Billie, who finds herself unexpectedly pregnant and feeling alone in deciding how best to cope with this, unknowingly is drawn to try to befriend the school secretary, Yun-ji, who is also quietly deciding on her own how she will deal with an unexpected pregnancy from a brief fling with an American soldier.

Equally touching is the story of Moon, working at the school and clinging desperately to sobriety in an effort to regain his relationship with his ex-wife and his son.

As the novel reached its climax, and all too soon afterward conclusion, I found myself clinging to the characters, unwilling to watch them flit away.

I would highly recommend this book to those who enjoy classic fiction and are looking for fresh voices, as well as any readers who enjoy fiction on Asian culture. At $2.99, this book is a great buy for the Kindle.

According to Zerndt’s Amazon page, he is seeking a publisher for a third novel, “Where Cute and Crazy Meet at Midnight.” When available, this book will certainly be on my list to purchase. I hope that Zerndt has once again found the intoxicating voice with which he breathed life into the characters from “The Korean Word for Butterfly.”

(The title of this blog post is Korean for “second chances,” according to a Google translation.)



Susan Spira shares happiness with all ages

A few weeks ago, a short book of observations and life-lessons caught my eye amongst the Kindle freebie lists. The cover art was beautiful, and I thought it would be a fun “purchase.”

I vaguely recognized the author’s name, Susan Spira. I recall thinking, at the time, “She must be one of those big-name motivational speakers or something.” I thought no more of it until one morning when I was looking for something to provide a little quick reading that I didn’t need to make a commitment to.

The morning I first opened “One Liners for Life” was a really hectic morning for me (hence, the reason why I was looking for a few words of distraction that I could look to without the commitment of concentrating on chapters or even paragraphs of text. Many of these simple phrases spoke to my heart, brought a smile to my face, and even helped to put the burdens of my day into perspective. In her introduction, Spira expresses her hope that this will be a book that readers will return to time and again when they have need of these little gems of advice – and I honestly believe that for me, it will be.

Without intending to read the entire thing in one sitting or even realizing I had, I was finished. Not to say that the book is overly short – I believe it’s a very nice length for the type of book that it is. Rather, I found myself immersed in Spira’s spirit of happiness and lost track of the time.

At the end of the book, Amazon’s suggestions helped me realize why the name was familiar – she has also written some of my very favorite children’s books on the Kindle, the “Tinky” books. The two books currently in our collection, “Tinky’s Magic Cookies” and “Tinky and the Dragon” are beautifully written and illustrated tales that promote kindness, helpfulness and sharing. Picture books about dogs are always favorites in our household and the “Tinky” tales rise to the top. These are also some of the picture books best formatted for the Kindle of those I have found.

I’ve gotten all three of these selections free for Kindle at different times. “Tinky and the Dragon” is currently free at the time of this blog post. I certainly appreciate Spira for freely sharing her generous happiness with readers. I look forward to reading more of her works in the future, and may even purchase some of her other books for myself or children.

More about Spira can be found on her Amazon page here or on her website.