Human Acts ~ Han Kang

Human Acts by Han Kang

A collection of short stories regarding brutal violence in South Korea, this tragic book was difficult to read, but left my eyes a little wider to the events of the world. The opening story follows the death of Dong-Ho, and appropriately the final story is about Dong-Ho’s mother, but there are several different perspectives in between.

I’ve not read Kang’s other books, but feel compelled to do so after reading this series of stories. I loved that Kang gave each character a different narrative style, including first person, second person, and third person. I read each story one at a time, as I felt it gave each story a clear start and finish that I wouldn’t get if I simply started and stopped randomly throughout the book.

Kang writes clearly and with emotion, leaving in her wake wonderful quotes and one-liners. This book feels like a personal story being told to me, and as such I hesitate to talk about it with others, and I know I could not explain everything that happens without simply handing you the book to read for yourself. I love that Kang was able to craft a story that feels as though she is there telling it to you and you alone, and yet this book can reach so many people and gives voice to these stories for a wider audience. The size of the book is small, so it’s truly only the heavy content that takes a while to read, but it should be pretty accessible for most people.

I found her epilogue at the end particularly stunning, as sometimes I connect more with memoir than fiction. I loved hearing from her perspective why writing this novel was important to her, and it seems the stories filled her when she was awake and asleep until she learned more about what happened in Gwangju Massacre.

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