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I'll Be Right There Paperback – June 3, 2014

4.3 out of 5 stars 32 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"[I'll Be Right There is] a page-turner, such is Shin's gift for storytelling, as well as her careful cultivation of motifs." —New York Times Book Review

"Shin writes wonderfully about intimacy and the longing of lonely people. ...I'll Be Right There is a hopeful work about the power of art, friendship and empathy to provide meaning to people's lives." —LA Times

“Tender and mournful, the latest novel from best-selling South Korean novelist Shin (Please Look after Mom, 2011) considers young love and loss in an era of political ferment...Shin's uncomplicated yet allusive narrative voice delivers another calmly affecting story, simultaneously foreign and familiar." —Kirkus

"Shin can suggest profound implications in restrained detail, and though the story ends in tragedy, her frequent references to both Eastern and Western literature testify to the duty to hope and stay alive." —Publishers Weekly

"[I'll Be Right There] is full of beautiful and tragic moments between friends, a tender, complex exploration of shared stories, and, perhaps more important, the weight of a collective history on individual relationships." —SF Gate

I'll Be Right There is as much about tender friendships as it is about the tragedies of a political uprising.” —The Huffington Post

"Through one tender scene after another, Shin shows us the comfort human connection offers." —Bookslut

"Quivering, hopeful, and heartfelt." —Bustle

“In this inspiring novel, Kyung-sook Shin argues that, faced with treachery, the moral person can be carrier and Christ to others.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune

I’ll Be Right There is a haunting story of adolescent entanglements that will speak to readers everywhere.” —The Independent

“The shimmering, lucid tones and silver melancholy of I'll Be Right There give readers a South Korea peopled with citizens fighting for honor and intellectual freedom, and longing for love and solace. Kyung-Sook Shin’s characters have unforgettable voices—it’s no wonder she has so many fans.” —Susan Straight, author of Between Heaven and Here and National Book Award Finalist

"The novel brilliantly uses European literature to familiarize Western readers with Eastern turmoil. " —Flavorwire

"Shin's skill lies in her ability to transmute the specific into the universal." —Shelf Awareness

“A wonderful, heartbreaking story that lingered with me long after the last page was turned. As the powerful story unfolded, I enjoyed peeling away the complicated, dark layers of every character. Kyung-sook Shin’s beautiful depictions of love and sweet adolescent confessions will take you back in time to your first heartbreak.” —PP Wong, Editor-in-Chief, Banana Writers

“Known for her beautiful imagery and lyrical prose…in I’ll Be Right There, Shin utilizes vivid, searing imagery…balanc[ing] the gentle beauty of language with bold images throughout her writing…Shin’s passages are carefully crafted, as if they were from a book of poetry…Ultimately, I’ll Be Right There is a story of hope.” —Korean Quarterly

"An astounding meditation on living in time, both time lost and time gained, as well as...an expression of a philosophy of a way to live...I'll Be Right There immediately stands out as a book that supports, perhaps even needs, multiple readings." —Korean Literature in Translation

"Shin's perspective on relationships is nuanced; she doesn't shy away from what is complex, complicated or painful in everyday human connections...There is also vibrancy and richness in the lives of her characters, and an understanding of love and solitude that is universal." —Electric Literature

"Spectacular...Shin’s searing, immediate prose will remind readers of Nadeem Aslam’s The Blind Man’s Garden, Edwidge Danticat’s The Dew Breaker, and Aminatta Forna’s The Memory of Love, and their stories of ordinary lives trapped in extraordinary sociopolitical circumstances." —BookDragon 

“A searing, literate portrayal of the cost of survival in a time of chaos, Shin nevertheless evokes a surprising amount of hope.”  —Philadelphia Weekly

“Shin suggests that literature’s most valuable task may be to refresh principles so basic as to seem banal, to render them graspable even in the harshest rapids of modernization and development.” —Public Books

"Shin’s contemplative narrative...captures both the preciousness of life and a constant intermingling sorrow." —Bookreporter

"I’ll Be Right There is a gem of a novel, a quiet, masterful rendering of the emotional life of a young woman looking back on the formative years of her early twenties." —Rosemary & Reading Glasses

About the Author

Kyung-sook Shin, the author of seventeen works of is one of South Korea’s most widely read and acclaimed novelists. Her best seller Please Look After Mom has been translated into more than thirty languages. She has been honored with the Man Asian Literary Prize, the Manhae Prize, the Dong-in Literary Award, the Yi Sang Literary Prize, and France’s Prix de l’Inaperçu, as well as the Ho-Am Prize in the Arts, awarded for her body of work for general achievement in Korean culture and the arts.
Sora kim-Russell is a poet and translator originally from California and now living in Seoul, South Korea. Her work has appeared in Words Without Borders, Azalea: A Journal of Korean Literature and Culture, Drunken Boat, Pebble Lake Review, The Diagram, and other publications. She teaches at Ewha Womans University.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Other Press (June 3, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590516737
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590516737
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #488,814 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Amelia Gremelspacher TOP 1000 REVIEWER on June 10, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Myungsuh tells Jung Yoon "Let's remember his day forever". This book then is the story of her regret that she didn't say, "I'll be right there." Living in the political unrest of 1980's South Korea, Yoon's losses nonetheless less are only mirrored by the uncertainty around her. Three friends, Yoon, Myungsuh, and Miru live the regrets of love not grasped tighter or seen for the gift it had been. Each has lost deeply, one dramatically in the backlash of the Revolution.

Yoon and her friends are literate and self exploratory. This book highlights the fears of their lives being meaningless. Their struggles with grief are expressed beautifully and deftly in a way that fully engages the reader. Yoon's mother's death is highlighted in her haunting shadow of loss memory. She had been sent away by her mother who did not want Yoon to witness her painful death. Instead Yoon finds herself drawn to the cocooning and insulation of sharing losses with friends. The world's violent intrusions into their lives serve to deepen but stress the strength of their ties.

Still each friend believes that he/she has failed in "being there" in some key way. Strikingly, they had in fact given all they could give as flawed humans. The chaos of the setting serves in a bit of perversity to highlight the universality of feelings as they force their way to consciousness. The author has a gift for returning the reader to the storm of young adulthood while avoiding maudlin overstatement. This is a fine young writer living up to the promise of her first book. Her work is lovely.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I always enjoy grabbing something by someone, when I know little of either and leaping right into the book. I'll Be Right There did not disappoint, bore, confuse or annoy, always an added bonus.

The tale is somewhat of a controlled meander, and at times throughout I worried that I would lose interest among the woven story-lines and occasionally long chapters. Nope. Shin somehow manages to pull interest even though her tale does not contain the typical dramas authors use to make you turn the page. Even stranger is that I usually prefer a dose of cheesy suspense to maintain my interest, but found myself buried in this book without obvious motivations.

I'll Be Right There is drenched in philosophy without being overblown, and while tragic in its own right, I would say is less tear-jerker and more thoughtfully sad. As hinted before, timelines and perspectives dance around in this novel, something which usually throws a doofus reader like myself, however I rarely ever felt like I lost my way through the book, and when I did not for long.

Shin shows a unique talent in being able to tell a story where the depth of the characters experience plays dominates the front of the novel, rather than melodramatic events. I'll Be Right There, while admittedly sounding like a shallow romance is anything but.
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This is one of those books that I think mostly older people who recognize that we all reminisce about life and consider our regrets from time to time will appreciate. It is written in a "here's what we did and why" almost confessional style. Very interesting to learn about this period in Korean history, yet I wish it had been more specific about the background so I didn't have to google Korean History to find out what was taking place politically. The author writes that she deliberately did not state what was happening so that readers in other similar situations could relate to the fight against totalitarianism. I don't think it would have hurt to explain the political climate of the time.
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Format: Paperback
(4.5 stars) Set in Korea during the turbulent 1980s, a time in which Korean students demonstrated against the military dictatorship which had seized their country in a coup in 1979, I’ll Be Right There focuses on a group of four college students in the 1980s, then brings them up to date in the present. The novel opens in the present time, as main character Jung Yoon, now in her forties, receives a phone call from someone to whom she had once been close, but with whom she has had no contact at all for eight years. Her caller reveals that Prof. Yoon (no relation to Jung Yoon), the literature professor whom she and her friends had all revered, lies dying in the hospital. Quickly involving the reader, who wants to know more about Jung Yoon and her student life, the author provides details about the professor’s influence on Jung Yoon and hints at the mysterious relationship she has had with Myungsuh Yi, the man who has phoned her. Soon all the former students begins to gather at the professor’s hospital bedside.

Through a flashback, Jung Yoon then describes her college life, and many American readers will be startled by some of the cultural differences – and similarities – between her life and theirs as they “live” through the action of this novel. Family relationships and obligations, the interactions among friends, and the importance of being part of a group are all shown within the plot. Yoon, Myungsuh Yi (the male friend), Miru, his female friend (and later her sister Mirae) quickly become almost inseparable, and it is through their eyes that the reader sees what is happening politically and culturally, but also personally and emotionally.

All the students are searching for “answers,” and the professor keeps them thinking by using many different literary resources.
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