logo
Wrong email address or username
Wrong email address or username
Incorrect verification code
back to top
Search tags: korean-war
Load new posts () and activity
Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2018-05-10 14:56
A truly romantic novel about a love that survives against all odds.
Returning to the Land of the Morning Calm - Hans M. Hirschi

I can reassure those who know Mr. Hirschi as the Queen of Unconventional Happy Endings. He’s done it again.

This book, perhaps the most romantic of the books I’ve read so far by this author, in my opinion, is about a love story that has survived incredible odds and lasted almost a whole lifetime. Despite being separated by different continents, being from different backgrounds, and hardly knowing each other’s languages and customs, two young men meet in Korea shortly after the war (in 1953) and feel attracted to each other. One, Martin, is an African-American soldier with a penchant for languages, helping the UN with the pacification tasks. The other, Ji-Hoon, is a young man working at the family restaurant, whose future path has been decided for him. He will get married and inherit the family business. They are both young, beautiful, and inexperienced. In such strange circumstances, they meet and get to know each other. Martin helps Ji-Hoon’s family providing supplies as often as he can, and he ends up becoming a friend of the whole family. But, they are not meant to be together. Martin goes back to the US and never meets anybody he feels the same about as he did for Ji-Hoon. He knows he was going to get married, but after a brief epistolary contact, they lose touch. Now in his eighties, thanks to a new nurse at the nursing home where he is staying, Kevin, and to the brother of one of the other residents, Eugene, he is encouraged to find out what happened to the true love of his life.

The story, although written in the third person, is told from Martin’s point of view. There are chapters set in the present, interspersed with chapters that took place in Korea after the war, providing the readers the background to understand both, the love story, and also how time has passed and changed things. There is a fair amount of telling in the book, as Martin, who is, in many ways, old-fashioned, not used to talking about his feelings, and of a generation where being openly gay was not the done thing (and in his case, being compounded by the race issue it would have made his life even harder), lives pretty much a quiet life, full of memories of the one event and emotion that really shook his world. Martin is confronted by some openly gay men (very different in outlook: Kevin, a Goth nurse who has trouble fitting in, but not with his sexuality; Eugene, who found a refuge for his more flamboyant mannerisms in an acting career; and Eugene’s nephew, who is married to another man and has children and a blissful family life, other than the conflict with his mother) and their questions and different outlooks make him, in a way, come of age and wonder, not only how things could have been, but also, why things could be. The fact that men still find him attractive, and there is still plenty of life left in him, together with the encouragement he receives, makes him go back to Korea pursuing the love of his youth.

The beautifully detailed writing manages to bring Korea to life, both in the post-war era and now. We share in Martin’s point of view and that makes us see the beauty of it, the wonder, but also the confusion and how much it has changed when we get to the present. The descriptions of places, food, and moments are emotional and beautiful. Korea and the way it has changed over time parallels what has happened to Martin. There are traces of the past, love for respect and tradition, but some of the old things had to be removed to make way for the new, and some could not be saved. It is not all for the better, but there is still beauty there, and its people are still the people Martin felt so fond of.

In some ways, we know little about Martin, who is not somebody who talks about him easily, and who only makes passing comments about his previous life and shares some brief snippets about his parents, his work, and his lovers over the years, but does not dwell on them. He is a modest and humble man who seems unaware of how much people like him or how fond they are of him. He is a credible character, and his doubts and hesitations fit in well with his age, his outlook on life, and also the effect he has on others. At the same time, his exploration of life and his perfect role as an observer when he first goes to Korea and on his return help readers explore and feel at one with him, sharing in his wonder and confusion.

Apart from Korea and the love story at the heart of the book, there are many other themes that come into play and create a complex background. The three men who end up going to Korea face some challenges and prejudice. While Martin could hide his sexual orientation, his skin colour was there for everybody to see, and being in the military he was fully aware of how different a treatment he was likely to receive from his colleagues. Eugene could not hide his gayness and pass for straight, and his lifestyle put him at risk. We know the #MeToo does not only apply to women, and in Eugene’s case, it had serious consequences for him. He was shunned by his sister all of his life, for being who he was. And his nephew suffered the same fate. Kevin, whose looks and style-choices have made him a bit of an outsider, is a loner and feels more comfortable with Martin than with people his age. There are parallels and similarities between the —at least at first sight— very different characters, and later on, we see these parallels are also in evidence across the world, with religious beliefs and conservative traditions coming in the way of love and understanding. We see Ji-Hoon only through Martin’s eyes at first, and he is not always insightful about people around him or about how he is perceived by others, but we have an opportunity to see what impact he truly had on his friends later on in the book.

Although the story of elderly men or women trying to find a lost love is not new, I enjoyed Martin’s process of discovery and his coming into his own. I love the comradery and the way the three men helped each other, with Eugene playing the fairy godmother and facilitating the trip, Kevin providing the technical and hands-on know-how, and Martin confronting his fears to become the hero he was meant to be. This is a novel about friendship, about history, about love, and about hope. We should never lose our hope and dreams. Nothing is impossible if we don’t give up. (Ah, there is no erotica, in case that you, like me, don’t particularly enjoy it).

The author includes a recipe at the end (the dish is central to the story, so I won’t go into detail), and he also explains some of the process and the language difficulties he faced and adds a glossary of terms at the end.

A gorgeous cover, for a truly romantic book that goes beyond the standard love story and includes an ensemble of characters you’ll feel sorry to say goodbye to. I’ll be eagerly waiting for Mr. Hirschi’s next book.

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2018-05-07 16:11
Forgiveness In The First Degree (True Crime Account) by Rondol Hammer & Phillip Robinson, with Margot Starbuck
Forgiveness In The First Degree - Rondol Hammer,Phillip Robinson,Margot Starbuck

The gun was never supposed to go off. When a drug dealer assured twenty-nine-year-old Ron Hammer and his brother-in-law that they could make some quick easy money, they were intrigued. He promised them that when a local grocer delivered a bag of money to his store to cash Friday paychecks, they only needed to show him a gun and he d hand over the bag. But high on meth and dulled by liquor, they ended up in a scuffle with their target, and the gun accidentally fired. And when Phillip Robinson rushed from the shelves he d been stocking to investigate the commotion at the front of the store, he saw his father lying on the sidewalk, dying. The lives of Ron Hammer and Phillip Robinson, whose paths should only have ever crossed at the grocery checkout line, became inextricably linked by one foolish decision that would shatter a web of lives. Over three decades the two men came to discover not only that they both needed to be set free, but that in God s unlikely economy of redemption their liberation was bound up with one another. Like the famous prodigal son and his dutiful older brother, the moving story of Phillip Robinson and Rondol Hammer reveals how two men wrestling with law and grace discover unlikely redemption. 

~from back cover

 

 

 

 

POTENTIAL TRIGGER WARNING: This book discusses the topics of attempted suicide, murder and otherwise extreme violence (mainly in the form of prison stories that describe scenes of eyes being gouged out and ears bitten off)

 

In 1986, twenty-seven year old auto mechanic & Vietnam veteran Ron Hammer, high on meth, carries out armed robbery at a local grocery store. In the process, Ron unintentionally kills the father of the store's assistant manager, Phillip Robinson. Hammer, along with his brother-in-law / robbery accomplice / fellow meth addict, flees the scene with the money. Though he evades escape for a time, Ron is eventually caught and sent to prison. The prison sentence forces him to quit meth cold turkey. It is also there in prison that he finds religion, leading him to the decision to approach the Robinson family with his honest apology for his irreversible actions. 

 

Though at the time of Ron's initial attempt at apology Phillip is a practicing Christian and aspiring pastor, the road to forgiving Ron proves to be a decades long journey. It is not until 1994 that Phillip finds himself ready to honestly hear Ron out on the topic of forgiveness. Once at that place, though, Phillip discovers the blessing that comes in the form of an emotional weight lifted he didn't even entirely realize he was carrying!

 

The format of this book alternates between Ron's point of view of the events, and then Phillip's. As far as the flow of the writing itself, I found Ron's portions of the story more compelling. When it came to Phillip's portions... him losing his father in such a violent way is undeniably tragic, but from a sheer matter of reading enjoyment, something about Phillip's portions came off as more boring and preachy. Not surprising, I suppose, as Phillip IS a preacher, but I'm just sharing the truth of my reading experience. 

 

Still, this story is an important one to be shared because look at the message it presents: a man finds it in his heart to bestow honest forgiveness on the man who murdered his father. If a person can do that, it makes any other seemingly "unforgiveable" dealbreaker-type situation easily traversable, doesn't it? There are also takeaways from the perspective of Ron: one can come back from a life thrown into a tailspin via drug addiction and go on to have a powerful testimony of a life bound to help others out of their emotional mires. The book definitely gives you material to think on. 

 

NOTE: This book does give spoilers for the film The Outlaw Josie Wales and Victor Hugo's novel Les Miserables

 

FTC Disclaimer:  Blue Ridge CWC and FaithHappenings Publishers kindly provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The opinions above are entirely my own. 

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2018-03-28 15:29
The PR of a "police action"
Selling the Korean War: Propaganda, Politics, and Public Opinion in the United States, 1950-1953 - Steven Casey

The invasion of South Korea by North Korean forces in June 1950 posed a multitude of challenges to the United States.  Among these, one of the most difficult and persistent faced by the Truman administration was that of how to present the war to the American people. What might seem to be a fairly straightforward matter was in fact a far more complex problem, riven as it was by issues of domestic politics and overshadowed by the broader context of the Cold War. Steven Casey’s book provides a detailed look at the problems the Truman administration faced, how they changed over the course of the war, and how they endeavored to navigate around or surmount the difficulties before them.

 

These problems emerged practically from the moment the president and the American people first learned of the invasion.  From the start Truman sought a restrained rhetorical response to the conflict, out of a concern that intemperate language might exacerbate the Cold War. This decision, however, gave an opening to Truman’s Republican opponents in Congress.  Still smarting from Truman’s victory in the 1948 presidential election, they took advantage of his failure to define the conflict early on by using it to lambaste his administration’s handling of foreign policy.

 

Their criticisms were sharpened in the short term by the course of events, as the poor showing of the first American troops thrown into combat served to underline Republican arguments about Truman’s failings as president. Here Casey turns his attention to the other part of the story, the type and nature of the information flooding out from the Korean peninsula. The reporters rushed to cover the war faced a chaotic situation off the battlefield as well as on it, thanks in no small measure to General Douglas MacArthur’s refusal at first to impose any sort of censorship on the articles being sent out. This left the correspondents open to criticism for indiscretions in their reporting, and soon they were at the forefront of calls for such guidelines. Yet when censorship was finally imposed, its strictness proved to be more restrictive than they bargained for fueling criticisms that MacArthur’s public information officers were trying to withhold information that made their superior look bad.

 

MacArthur’s dismissal as supreme commander in April 1951 had significant implications for both levels of public relations. His successor, Matthew Ridgway, proved far more diplomatic in his handling of the media, a task made simpler by the stabilization of the battlefront by the summer.  For Truman, however, MacArthur’s return to the United States heightened criticisms of his administration’s handling of the war still further. Yet this proved in some respects to be a blessing in disguise, as it prompted his administration to provide a more forceful defense of their handling of the war. This plus the changing nature of the conflict finally pushed Truman into making the vigorous case for the war that had been absent for so long, only to find the static, drawn-out nature of the conflict limited the impact of his efforts. His successor as president, Dwight Eisenhower, faced similar public relations problems and repeated some of Truman’s early mistakes, but the death of the Soviet leader Josef Stalin in March 1953 was quickly followed by concessions that made an armistice possible four months later.

 
Casey’s book is a valuable study of an often overlooked aspect of war.  With it he chronicles a government as it transitioned away from the assumptions involved in rallying public opinion in a “total war” and towards the challenges involved in doing so for the more limited conflicts that the U.S. has fought since World War II.  Though it may not be as exciting as the subtitle implies, with only minimal coverage of the broader cultural propaganda tied to the war, it definitely rewards the time spent reading it.  This is a book that should be read by anyone interested in the history of the Korean War or in the broader topic of how governments manage the media and rally public opinion to wage war in our world today.

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2018-02-15 19:11
Informative and Terrifying!
The Korean Crisis: One People, Two Natio... The Korean Crisis: One People, Two Nations, A World On The Brink - Jack Van Der Slik

Very informative! And timely! And terrifying! The author presents an interesting, well written book on the current crisis in North Korea. He delves into the history of the Korean peninsula, in a clear and easily understood manner. Into the Korean War. It's causes, and which world leaders were involved. How, after the war, North and South Korea developed, and how they got to the state that they are in today. And the history of the current North Korean leadership, it's quirks and goals. And why China continues to support the Kim regime, and why the US and Japan support South Korea.
The author ends with his thoughts on the future of the Korean peninsula. While he does not (no one can) predict the long term future, he does identify several factors that can affect the future. In his opinion, the only way to peace is through intercession by China, and responsive negotiations by South Korea, Japan, and the US. Without which, we risk a nuclear disaster.
This is a frightening book. You will not sleep well after reading it. But it is important to know what we are up against. Let's all hope and pray that it ends well.

Like Reblog Comment
review 2017-08-30 00:00
The Girl with Seven Names: A North Korean Defector's Story
The Girl with Seven Names: A North Korea... The Girl with Seven Names: A North Korean Defector's Story - Hyeonseo Lee,David John This is a somewhat difficult book to read, but also quite interesting. The difficulty is with the subject matter, not the writing. The book is well written.

It begins by telling about life in North Korea when the author was growing up. N. Korea is a highly stratified society, stratified in terms of one's perceived loyalty to the ruling Kim family. So, the author and her brother grew up happily enough. Her parents had adequate jobs, and her mother was more than adept at smuggling and bribery so that she could provide some extras for her family. Smuggling and bribery are ok in N. Korea, in their place. The only unforgivable sin, apparently, is disrespect to the Kims.

The author's family lives along the Yalu River. China is just on the other side. People sneak over and back all the time. One day, as a young teenager, the author decides to go across the river for a "visit". She figures she'll be back within a day or so. She's just curious. But, once she's there, she really can't go back without causing severe problems for herself and her family. She has some distant relatives a few miles inland, and they take her in.

Because she's illegal, she can't go out alone. The Chinese authorities are continually on the look out for illegal N. Koreans. When they find them, they return them. So the author spends her days watching TV and learning Mandarin. She gets so good that she can pass, so to speak.

Her relatives try to marry her off to as guy who is so dull that death seems like a better option. So, the author runs off, and finds a way to survive. Well, time goes on, things happen, eventually, she makes it to Seoul and is taken into the S. Korean society. But she misses her mother and brother and contrives to smuggle them into S. Korea. More weird problems.

So, much of the book reads like "The Perils of Pauline", one damn crisis after another. The author manages to keep up her spirits and things work out in the end. Quite fascinating.

Interesting to read about life under the Kims in N. Korea. Basically, they are a family of marginally competent narcissistic autocrats. Life under such folks is pretty awful. And now, we've elected ourselves a narcissistic autocrat. With luck, our vaunted checks and balances will mitigate the damage. We'll see.
More posts
Your Dashboard view:
Need help?