From Publishers Weekly
Set on China's fraught, ruggedly beautiful border with North Korea, Talarigo's tense, atmospheric second novel (after The Pearl Diver
) movingly dramatizes the human faces behind political oppression. A nameless middle-aged Chinese man—whose mother was Chinese and father was Korean—maintains a quiet, relatively stable life gathering the valuable ginseng root. In strict adherence to family traditions, he takes only a single root a day when he can find them; once a month he stays overnight in the city of Yanji, at Miss Wong's bordello. On one such trip, he spends the night with a young North Korean refugee who tells a harrowing story of oppression. Alternating with her story is the tale of a North Korean mother and young daughter who are forcibly separated during famine; the daughter washes up tragically at the gatherer's door, while the mother might or might not be the refugee prostitute. Talarigo hypnotically weaves the strands of these stories together against a backdrop of stunning scenery and of cruelty, creating a memorable, morally stringent tale. (Apr.)
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“Remarkable. . . . A story of quiet humanity in the midst of overwhelming inhumanity.”
—The Christian Science Monitor
“A psychologically affecting portrait of desire and guilt. . . . A scathing reminder of the perils that communism continues to wreak in pockets across the world.”
“This brave book, written in starkly vivid prose, is timely on several levels. . . . We seldom get a window into North Korean lives. The view is painful, but well worth it.”
—The Free Lance-Star
“Evanescent…. [Shows] the beauty and power of the ginseng root, the respect of the hunter for the thing he hunts.”
—Los Angeles Times
From the Trade Paperback edition.