This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
Reviewed by Kelly Allen
Yujeong is a talented woman who has one issue with life – she wants to die. As she lies in hospital after her third suicide attempt, Aunt Monica arrives offering her an option; Yujeong can either attend therapy or attend death row with her aunt, visiting the inmates every week. Yujeong agrees to visit the prison (if only to avoid therapy) and the inmate she visits is a man called Yunsu, who has been convicted of both rape and murder. When she first arrives, she feels nothing but disgust for the man before her, but as time goes by, she begins to feel something different – as does Yunsu. They start to see a reason to live, through the kindness of others and the effect of real and pure love.
I was really intrigued by this book since it is a translated version of a bestselling South Korean novel. I was hooked from the very beginning; it has a very intriguing start and allows you to follow the story of Yujeong through a first person narrative as well as alternate diary entries from Yunsu as he prepares for his ultimate fate.
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I really loved the ‘blue note’ sections, which are Yunsu’s diary entries. I felt they were very informative and snappy. They gave so much in such a short space of writing and it meant that it was very easy to dip in and out of the book, which suits my style of reading. I particularly felt drawn to the book because of the subject matter. Death row, the death penalty and forgiveness gave me so much to think about and debate. I think this subject is rarely presented in this way, which made it more riveting to read. Yunsu’s relationship and story about his brother is incredibly heart-breaking, and his final act of giving is extremely moving.Yujeong is a fantastic character, growing throughout the book and blossoming at the end. Her feisty character was also very refreshing, and I really liked her immediate reactions of thought to other characters and conversations. She grows so much during the book, becoming more compassionate and feeling more for others, especially Yunsu. She begins to question rights and wrongs, the differences between justice, the death penalty and murder. These internal debates within the book are really well written and I felt myself feeling as frustrated as Yujeong is; she is constantly fighting inner and outer battles on her journey.
Aunt Monica also stands out within the book as a strong and selfless woman who turns out to be just the person Yujeong and Yunsu need. Aunt Monica seems to represent the mother both of them have never had and this is beautifully shown during the meetings towards the end and especially after Yunsu’s execution. I admit that at this point I ended up in floods of tears; it was delicately and honestly portrayed and it totally broke my heart.
This is definitely not a novel to miss out on. Even though it is hard to read at times, it is also a beautifully written book about a subject often overlooked. It will make you question your opinions, make you appreciate your life and loved ones, and even give you a hope that anyone can be forgiven.
Keep your tissues handy for this beautifully thought-provoking read.