- Paperback: 362 pages
- Publisher: Lake Union Publishing (June 28, 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1503936260
- ISBN-13: 978-1503936263
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 2,358 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #115,359 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Daughters of the Dragon Paperback – June 28, 2016
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About the Author
William Andrews wrote at night and on weekends (and sometimes during workdays) for fifteen years leading up to his debut novel, The Essential Truth, a thriller that won first place in the 2008 Mayhaven Contest for fiction. He worked for more than thirty years as a copywriter and a marketing executive for several Fortune 500 companies and then as head of his own advertising agency. Daughters of the Dragon, a work of historical fiction inspired by Andrews’s Korean-born daughter, is his third novel and follows the success of his 2014 IPPY Award–winning thriller, The Dirty Truth. Now retired and writing full-time, Andrews lives in Minneapolis with his wife.
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I also learned a lot about Korean history and how the country ended up being split by the powerful nations of both the East and West. When I finished reading it, I was overjoyed to discover that there is a sequel coming out in March. Needless to say I've already pre-ordered it.
If you noticed I haven't said a word about the plot, it is because I want you to discover it for yourselves and be dumbstruck like I was.
After her American adoptive mother dies, Anna Carlson is curious to learn more about her Korean birth mother. When she arrives in Korea, she locates her birth mother's house, only to discover that her Korean grandmother, who put her up for adoption after her mother died in childbirth, is living there. Once they've become acquainted, grandmother has a story to tell, and it will be a long one. Anna is anxious because she has a cab waiting to take her back to her hotel to catch her return flight, but she settles in as the story begins.
As grandmother's story unfolds, Anna learns about how her female relatives were tricked into serving as "comfort women" for the Japanese army during their WW2 occupation of Korea. Her grandmother and her sister were victims of that atrocity, but were eventually separated while her sister was healing after an abortion.
As the story continues, grandmother's resourcefulness and determination to rise above the indignities she suffered emerge, all the while assuming that her sister died from the abortion. Working as a barmaid, she refuses the extra money available by being a "juicy girl" but engages in conversation with an official who provides an opportunity. She has great skill with languages, which she uses first to help interpret and write treaties between North and South Korea that, to this day, remain ineffective. After escaping to South Korea, she applies those skill working as an interpreter for a large construction company, ultimately helping them secure essential bank financing. Unfortunately, her employers learn about her history as a "comfort woman," leaving her without a job. She is also pregnant but determined to deliver and provide for her unborn child.
At the center of this story is a Korean icon: a comb decorated by 2 dragons, each with 5 toes. It's significance isn't clear at first, but as the story unfolds, we discover that the dragon comb has been handed down from mother to daughter for many generations; the 5 toes indicate a connection to a revered queen from many years ago. Somehow the comb has remained with grandmother since receiving it from her older sister, and now it's time to hand it down to the next daughter, Anna. Unfortunately, Korea does not allow official artifacts to leave the country, and the Korean police are determined not to let Anna leave with it in her possession. Of course, Anna figures out how to get it out of Korea without having her flight delayed.
Before leaving, Anna promises grandmother to see whether she can find her sister, whom she heard might still be alive in North Korea. Despite tensions between North and South Korea, Anna is determined to fulfill her promise to a woman she barely knows, except through the story of her life 60 years ago. Officials in America are able to verify grandmother's story, so they agree to begin the process of setting up a reunion meeting in Korea. It's a long, expensive process, but with her father's financial support, Anna returns to Korea to fulfill her promise, with the dragon comb carefully wrapped in her pocket.
In the course of the story, we learn about wartime atrocities, but we also learn about how one woman's desire to learn about her birth mother leads her to a family history and it's cultural influence on her present and future life. The last page of the book presents that influence in a powerfully understated manner.
Finally, the narrative voice employed by Andrews presents the story as if it were written by Anna herself. This is a "must read"!!
I knew next to nothing about Korean history before I read this book. I didn't know why the nation was divided, or the WW II and Cold War histories of how it came about that North Korea is communist and South Korea is a republic. Now I have a framework of information about that and I can build on it if I want. In my opinion, that is something good historical fiction should be able to do, and I am grateful to the author.
it is interesting how the author takes advantage of the heroine's equal knowledge and experience of both kinds of government to help draw comparisons between them.
There is a lot of strong stuff in this book. The truth of what happened to the comfort women is not easy to read about, and the subsequent life of Jae-hee is difficult. This starts out reading like a YA book, but it definitely is not one! Be warned that if a pleasant fairy tale or emotional trip is what you are looking for, this book will not provide it.
Powerful topics that need to be discussed are written about here ...