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A genre-defying, continents-spanning saga of Korean myth, scientific discovery, and the abiding love that binds even the most broken of families. Elsa Park is a particle physicist at the top of her game, stationed at a neutrino observatory in the Antarctic, confident she's put enough distance between her ambitions and the family ghosts she's run from all her life. But it i A genre-defying, continents-spanning saga of Korean myth, scientific discovery, and the abiding love that binds even the most broken of families. Elsa Park is a particle physicist at the top of her game, stationed at a neutrino observatory in the Antarctic, confident she's put enough distance between her ambitions and the family ghosts she's run from all her life. But it isn't long before her childhood imaginary friend—an achingly familiar, spectral woman in the snow—comes to claim her at last. Years ago, Elsa's now-catatonic mother had warned her that the women of their line were doomed to repeat the narrative lives of their ancestors from Korean myth and legend. But beyond these ghosts, Elsa also faces a more earthly fate: the mental illness and generational trauma that run in her immigrant family, a sickness no less ravenous than the ancestral curse hunting her. When her mother breaks her decade-long silence and tragedy strikes, Elsa must return to her childhood home in California. There, among family wrestling with their own demons, she unravels the secrets hidden in the handwritten pages of her mother’s dark stories: of women’s desire and fury; of magic suppressed, stolen, or punished; of the hunger for vengeance. From Sparks Fellow, Tin House alumna, and Harvard graduate Angela Mi Young Hur, Folklorn is a wondrous and necessary exploration of the myths we inherit and those we fashion for ourselves.


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A genre-defying, continents-spanning saga of Korean myth, scientific discovery, and the abiding love that binds even the most broken of families. Elsa Park is a particle physicist at the top of her game, stationed at a neutrino observatory in the Antarctic, confident she's put enough distance between her ambitions and the family ghosts she's run from all her life. But it i A genre-defying, continents-spanning saga of Korean myth, scientific discovery, and the abiding love that binds even the most broken of families. Elsa Park is a particle physicist at the top of her game, stationed at a neutrino observatory in the Antarctic, confident she's put enough distance between her ambitions and the family ghosts she's run from all her life. But it isn't long before her childhood imaginary friend—an achingly familiar, spectral woman in the snow—comes to claim her at last. Years ago, Elsa's now-catatonic mother had warned her that the women of their line were doomed to repeat the narrative lives of their ancestors from Korean myth and legend. But beyond these ghosts, Elsa also faces a more earthly fate: the mental illness and generational trauma that run in her immigrant family, a sickness no less ravenous than the ancestral curse hunting her. When her mother breaks her decade-long silence and tragedy strikes, Elsa must return to her childhood home in California. There, among family wrestling with their own demons, she unravels the secrets hidden in the handwritten pages of her mother’s dark stories: of women’s desire and fury; of magic suppressed, stolen, or punished; of the hunger for vengeance. From Sparks Fellow, Tin House alumna, and Harvard graduate Angela Mi Young Hur, Folklorn is a wondrous and necessary exploration of the myths we inherit and those we fashion for ourselves.

30 review for Folklorn

  1. 5 out of 5

    Lady Amanda

    I keep seeing everyone making lists of Asian authored books to read for AAPI Heritage Month this month and I have the book for you right here. This is the one. Stop leaving it off of your lists. Read this one. Grab a copy from my Bookshop now! 5 painful, grief filled, magically important stars Read my full review HERE. :) Okay, Folklorn was just way more personal to me than I anticipated it to be. It was.... incredibly surprising how close to home it felt. Elsa grew up near me, and I grew up where I keep seeing everyone making lists of Asian authored books to read for AAPI Heritage Month this month and I have the book for you right here. This is the one. Stop leaving it off of your lists. Read this one. Grab a copy from my Bookshop now! 5 painful, grief filled, magically important stars Read my full review HERE. :) Okay, Folklorn was just way more personal to me than I anticipated it to be. It was.... incredibly surprising how close to home it felt. Elsa grew up near me, and I grew up where her Swedish home's people often emigrate to. I even almost ran to physics as well. Incredibly precise, and almost impossible for me to not rate this so highly. Angela Mi Young Hur was speaking directly to me! Big Takeaway Read this book. It is important. It is beautiful, and wonderful, and I absolutely applaud what Angela Mi Young Hur was able to accomplish here. **I received this ARC for free and am leaving this review voluntarily** Bookish Brews | Twitter | Pinterest | Tumblr

  2. 4 out of 5

    Celeste Ng

    Ghost story, family saga, parable, feminist reimagined myth: Angela Hur’s hugely ambitious FOLKLORN is a blend of all these and more. This spellbinding shape-shifter of a novel tackles questions of race, culture, and history head-on, exploring the blurry boundaries between past and present, fact and fantasy, and personal and cultural—or cosmic.

  3. 5 out of 5

    ☽Ari

    4.5 maddening stars I'm not treating myself medically. I'm curing myself with symbol and ritual, the only way to fight mystery and magic. Dr. Elsa Park, an experimental particle physicist, is at the South Pole, working on collecting data, like you do, when she sees her childhood friend, or should I say, her childhood imaginary friend, and decides to follow her into the rabbit hole, that is learning to live through the grief of her mother's death.. and the aftermath of her life.  We are introduc 4.5 maddening stars I'm not treating myself medically. I'm curing myself with symbol and ritual, the only way to fight mystery and magic. Dr. Elsa Park, an experimental particle physicist, is at the South Pole, working on collecting data, like you do, when she sees her childhood friend, or should I say, her childhood imaginary friend, and decides to follow her into the rabbit hole, that is learning to live through the grief of her mother's death.. and the aftermath of her life.  We are introduced to four major characters here aside from Elsa- Chris, her brother; Oskar, her future-lover and permanent myth google; her father; and her imaginary friend, and her mother by extension.  As children of two Korean immigrants who are war survivors, both Elsa and Chris at once mirror and play foil to each other. At first glance, we can see them as the two sides of a coin, where one is a particle physicist at the peak of her career, and the other a middle-aged, schizophrenic bum. But when you look closer, you realize which one is living, albeit painfully, in reality, and which one tends to escape into their heads; I'm sure you can read between the fine lines here. But despite all that, they are faces of the same coins, and that is shown in their shared trauma and grief, and incapability to form healthy human relations. It becomes evident in their views on family.  Maybe once I find the stories, my guilt—this walking, talking, braided manifestation of it—will finally leave me be. This whole book is a giant commentary on how debilitating repressed grief is, and, I won't lie, also a guide on how to irrevocably fuck up your kids. Like seriously, Mommy and Daddy Park do a fantastic job of it- till the very end: their father, through his abuse- first physical and later emotional, and their mother, through her stories that take a life of it's own, leeching off of theirs in turn.  There was no one perfect in this story- not Elsa, and not her ghosts. And I think that is the point, to not love them for being perfect, but to empathize. And this, Hur does through the myths, that are told from so many different perspectives: her mother's that shows the tragedy of the tales, and how women across all ages were sacrificed for one reason or another, be it love or greed, how being a woman is living a tragedy; Elsa's, that showed the strength of the women sacrificed, giving them not a delicate shape, but one of a survivor- cruel and ugly and real; and Oskar's, who showed the myths as we might interpret them at first glance, as that of a myth. And seen through these many lenses, the myths gain a life and body of their own, they become as dimensional as any character in the story.  Do hallucinations dream of reality when they sleep? Hur delved into a lot of different themes throughout the book- generational trauma, mental disorders, that feeling of being disconnected from one's culture, and not least of all the mythologies that shape those cultures, importance of family, and importance of human connection. And the lot of these were done quite impressively, if you take a moment to stop and think about the book.  Folklorn is a deeply cogitative tale, that through it's telling, compels you to not only think of the characters and the place they hold in their worlds, but also you, and the place you hold in yours. It seamlessly weaves the magic of ghosts into the trauma of of being haunted by one- both living and dead, and forces you to recognize, alongside the characters, what the most important aspects of living are.  Also, I really want to take a moment here to commend the writing, which was so fucking good that I couldn't discern if it was a story I was reading, or an epic poem. You will know what I'm talking about when you read it. Trust me. I resurrect Mom's voice, for how can I mourn her if she died a stranger? I dig and exhume for the truth—how to avenge, whom to punish and how. So do I recommend reading this? Hell fucking yeah! You can also read my review on my blog right here if you are for a little more rambling and ranting XD

  4. 4 out of 5

    Emmett

    *I received a free ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Folklorn is an incredible story. It is beautifully written and engaging from beginning to end. The author leaves you no choice but to feel this story on a personal level. The character of Elsa is fantastic. The novel considers race, nationality, and identity through her eyes, as a Korean-American, and how that lived experience colors her perception of herself and the world around her. The way her perspective is tr *I received a free ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Folklorn is an incredible story. It is beautifully written and engaging from beginning to end. The author leaves you no choice but to feel this story on a personal level. The character of Elsa is fantastic. The novel considers race, nationality, and identity through her eyes, as a Korean-American, and how that lived experience colors her perception of herself and the world around her. The way her perspective is transposed onto everything feels completely realistic. The examination of generational trauma and how it affects Elsa, explored through Korean folklore, is masterfully done. Despite the magical realism in the tale, her emotions feel so raw and her actions just feel so real. I don’t know how someone could read this without feeling connected to the character and her journey. Folklorn was fascinating to the point that I found myself thinking about it between reads. Although I wanted to know how everything ended, I stretched it out to savor it. At no point during reading did my mind wander, as it is written in such an arresting fashion. The story overall was quite emotional… in a way that broke my shriveled, brittle heart open (just a bit!). A truly impressive novel with a wholly unique premise; this is one I feel I could recommend to any of my friends. YOU! You there, pick up this book and read it.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Jayyn

    🎀🎀🎀🎀🎀 (five stars as rated in red ribbons trailing along behind your friend each time she visits) Stationed at a research center on Antarctica, Elsa Park is confident that she’s finally put as much distance as she can between her and the generational trauma of her Korean-American family. When a “ghost” from her past reappears unexpectedly, Elsa must come to terms with her history – both myth and fact – whether she’s ready to or not. “Please,” she said from her corner, “do not blame us for how o 🎀🎀🎀🎀🎀 (five stars as rated in red ribbons trailing along behind your friend each time she visits) Stationed at a research center on Antarctica, Elsa Park is confident that she’s finally put as much distance as she can between her and the generational trauma of her Korean-American family. When a “ghost” from her past reappears unexpectedly, Elsa must come to terms with her history – both myth and fact – whether she’s ready to or not. “Please,” she said from her corner, “do not blame us for how our lives have turned out. Perhaps it’s not just the women in our family anyhow—our entire people have been telling the wrong stories, making a wretched mess of our history. As if anybody wants to be told that their ability to endure is their greatest virtue. No wonder we get invasions and occupations, war and asshole husbands. What kind of stories, I wonder, do the white countries tell of themselves?” Folklorn is an exploration of diaspora, identity and self love at it’s most revolutionary. The experiences – both real and imagined – of the protagonist, Elsa, as well as her brother, Chris, her parents and particularly that of her friend, Oskar are all written, even at their worst with so much compassion. And while the pain was visceral at moments, it does ultimately lead to a place of healing that is deeply deserved by the characters and was profoundly satisfying for me as the reader. For me, of course, the best part of this book was getting to share it with my friends (for whom similar stories and experiences of the Asian diaspora are starkly underrepresented in publishing) relate and empathize with Folklorn so deeply. There really is no “reviewing” an experience like that. Oskar was easily my favorite character (though the more I look back on the book I find myself really empathizing with Chris as well). Described by my friend Moon as the “hottest Korean in fiction as of now,” I was enamored with the acceptance and empathy that Oskar held for Elsa even when she could not find the will to feel it for herself. From a mental health standpoint, I hold deep appreciation for Oskar’s because of his insistence on Elsa’s value and attractiveness to him even when she was clearly not healthy. Love is not something to be withdrawn when we are at our worst. And we are not only worthy of it once we’ve found the strength – more often resources – to “fix ourselves.” The Park family exemplifies how much of a privilege the idea of “mental health” can truly be as well as the weight of generational trauma. This aspect of Elsa and Oskar’s arc together, in particular, really affected me personally. ✨ Rep in this book: East Asian cast of characters ✨ Content warnings for this book: drowning, death of a parent, racism, domestic abuse, violence Follow me on: Blog | Twitter | Instagram | Tumblr | Pinterest | Storygraph

  6. 5 out of 5

    Lauren Stoolfire

    I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. DNF'd @ 20% Folklorn by Angela Mi Young Hur sounded like the kind of magical realism story I would enjoy, but unfortunately it ended up not being for me. I liked the use of fairy tales and folklore in what I read, but overall I couldn't connect to the realistic side of the story. I had a difficult time connecting to the almost clinical voice. It has a lot of potential as a whole, but in the end it just wasn't working out for me. I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. DNF'd @ 20% Folklorn by Angela Mi Young Hur sounded like the kind of magical realism story I would enjoy, but unfortunately it ended up not being for me. I liked the use of fairy tales and folklore in what I read, but overall I couldn't connect to the realistic side of the story. I had a difficult time connecting to the almost clinical voice. It has a lot of potential as a whole, but in the end it just wasn't working out for me.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Emma Cathryne

    Thank you to NetGalley for granting me this ARC in exchange for an honest review. This was a beautiful, highly introspective novel about the tension between physics and folklore, inherited trauma and love rediscovered through grief. It follows a Korean-American scientist named Elsa Park doing a physics post-doc in Antarctica and Sweden, who is called back to her childhood home in California following her mother's death. This novel is as heavy at times as it is tender at others, tackling issues o Thank you to NetGalley for granting me this ARC in exchange for an honest review. This was a beautiful, highly introspective novel about the tension between physics and folklore, inherited trauma and love rediscovered through grief. It follows a Korean-American scientist named Elsa Park doing a physics post-doc in Antarctica and Sweden, who is called back to her childhood home in California following her mother's death. This novel is as heavy at times as it is tender at others, tackling issues of family, identity, belonging, and diaspora. While the issues it covers are very real, I also loved the echos of magical realism that threaded through the novel, as Elsa follows a trail of her mother's Korean folktales in order to discover more about herself and her heritage. Below all of this, too, is a powerful message about womanhood and cycles of trauma throughout history, about mothers and daughters and familial wounds both intentional and accidental. It is interesting from both a philosophical and psychological perspective, ideas about nature vs. nurture intertwining with musings on culture, history, and mental health. Some of the physics talk went over my head, but Angela Mi Young Hur generally does a brilliant job of translating complex science for a lay audience, with gorgeous prose besides. This novel allowed me to meditate on heavy topics while also presenting an ending that felt hopeful. I look forward to allowing these ideas to settle, and re-reading this book in the future.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Danny

    I received this fascinating new book from Erewhon Books via Netgalley (thanks!) in exchange for an honest review. ‘Folklorn’ is an incredibly ambitious novel soaked in myth- it is a diasporic, family drama about physics, belonging and identity, nature vs nurture, ancestral inheritance and so much more. At the centre of this lyrically woven tapestry is Korean-American scientist, Elsa Park- an experimental theorist studying sterile neutrinos (I’m still not too sure either), who ends up on an epic q I received this fascinating new book from Erewhon Books via Netgalley (thanks!) in exchange for an honest review. ‘Folklorn’ is an incredibly ambitious novel soaked in myth- it is a diasporic, family drama about physics, belonging and identity, nature vs nurture, ancestral inheritance and so much more. At the centre of this lyrically woven tapestry is Korean-American scientist, Elsa Park- an experimental theorist studying sterile neutrinos (I’m still not too sure either), who ends up on an epic quest of self-discovery, via the medium of Korean folk stories. As the action shifts from the Arctic, to Sweden, to America, all via, (spiritually and mythically) Korea, the author spins Elsa around on a journey to discover truths about her identity- specifically in the ways that her identity has been framed by her mother. As a child, Elsa's mother claimed to her that they were both stricken by an ancestral curse, doomed to repeat the tragedies narrated to them by Korean myth and legend, unable to escape the echos of these stories and live freely. There’s an almost Indiana Jones/Robert Langdon continent-hopping, history/academic-plumbing mission here, but, one turned inward: a search not for a lost relic or mystical artefact, but for one’s sense of self. Elsa, as a Korean immigrant, ruptured as she is from both her homeland and from her family, must seek for an understanding of where she is from, and crucially, where she is headed. This is an introspective mission and, as such, it does drag its heels a little in places, particularly in the middle third as we arrive in America and add further layers of familial complexity. In many ways, the book reminded me of last year's ‘Transcendent Kingdom’ in its exploration of the interplay between science and religion/myth, through the lens of a strained mother-daughter relationship, shaped as it is by both immigration and mental illness. In other ways, it evoked similar themes of K-Ming Chan's ‘Bestiary’ in its appropriation of cultural folktales as a vehicle to explore filial dysfunction, obligation and resentment. However, ‘Folklorn’, lacks the sleek tautness of Gyasi or the lyrical abstraction of Chang. It is very much its own beast. There are so many interlacing ideas here- a lattice of motif and theme, of folklore, particle physics, commentary on race and immigration and, for the most part, it works cleverly and with nuance. The ways in which Angela Mi Young Hur draws narrative parallels between these different strands was particularly effective and the multiple elements do coalesce poignantly at the conclusion. However, I couldn’t help but feel that a little more restraint and tighter editing would have been helpful at times: much of the story is told through duologues and some felt a little contrived and digressive. Despite a couple of pacing issues, it's an alluringly told story about cultural/familial past and how inter-generational trauma shapes and determines one’s destiny. I learned a great deal about Korean history, myth and diaspora and enjoyed both Elsa and Oskar as characters. Angla Mi Young Hur is a magnificent writer with an impressive and visionary storytelling voice and I'm excited to see the wider reception to this novel.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Nicki Markus

    Folklorn was a thoughtful and lyrical tale. It took me a little longer than usual to get through it, but that was partly due to the time of year, with so much else going on, and the fact that it was a book I found myself pondering as I read, which slowed my reading speed. This story considers the idea of belonging and heritage, and whether that is genetic or a result of experience. Elsa's journey is woven through retellings of Korean folktales her mother used to read to her as a child, and we ca Folklorn was a thoughtful and lyrical tale. It took me a little longer than usual to get through it, but that was partly due to the time of year, with so much else going on, and the fact that it was a book I found myself pondering as I read, which slowed my reading speed. This story considers the idea of belonging and heritage, and whether that is genetic or a result of experience. Elsa's journey is woven through retellings of Korean folktales her mother used to read to her as a child, and we can see how she maps out her own history against those tales, sometimes blurring the lines between fact and fiction, so we question if what she is seeing and remembering is real or only in her head. It was a fascinating and captivating piece that was part family drama and part voyage of self-discovery, with a side serve of magical realism and folklore. Overall, this was a delightful and thought-provoking book, and I would be keen to read more from Angela Mi Young Hur in the future. I received this book as a free eBook ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

  10. 5 out of 5

    m.

    arc provided by netgalley for an honest review “these folktales also began and lived long as oral tradition, passed over generations—stolen notebooks and burning paper can’t kill these women.” This book follows Elsa Park, a particle physicist who is doing her post doctorate work in Antartica and Sweden. She later returns to her childhood home after her mother’s death where she discovers more about herself and her mother through her mother’s korean folktales. This book is heavy on inherited trauma arc provided by netgalley for an honest review “these folktales also began and lived long as oral tradition, passed over generations—stolen notebooks and burning paper can’t kill these women.” This book follows Elsa Park, a particle physicist who is doing her post doctorate work in Antartica and Sweden. She later returns to her childhood home after her mother’s death where she discovers more about herself and her mother through her mother’s korean folktales. This book is heavy on inherited trauma and a lack of identity as well as self discovery. Folklorn is a book that I would define not only as thoughtful but introspective, I would not go into this book believing it to be a quick read. It deals with topics that many people of mixed culture, heritage, nationality etc can relate to and have experienced. I thought this was a fascinating read especially when we read of Elsa trying to understand if what she has in her memory is really or something she has imagined. I definitely will be rereading this book before it comes out in April, there is a lot to absorb and experiencing it again would be highly beneficial.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Anatl

    Thanks to Erewhon and NetGalley for giving me an ARC of this book. The scope of this novel was larger than I anticipated. Elsa Park a physicist is haunted by the ghosts of her past and the myths and folktales her mother past on to her. She starts seeing an imaginary girl who speaks to her about some family secrets and its unclear whether she is haunted by a ghost or is simply loosing her mind. Her brother is a schizophrenic so she might be suffering a similar affliction rather than being haunted Thanks to Erewhon and NetGalley for giving me an ARC of this book. The scope of this novel was larger than I anticipated. Elsa Park a physicist is haunted by the ghosts of her past and the myths and folktales her mother past on to her. She starts seeing an imaginary girl who speaks to her about some family secrets and its unclear whether she is haunted by a ghost or is simply loosing her mind. Her brother is a schizophrenic so she might be suffering a similar affliction rather than being haunted by shamanistic lore. Her mother once told her the the women in the family were cursed. To figure if her imaginary friend is a spirit guide and if her "ghost mother pulling strings from beyond the grave" she delves into Korean folk tales that were passed on by her catatonic mother “You’ve read her—she’s more myth than woman. She fell asleep before I could get to know her as an adult. My childhood memories are all mixed up, mistranslated.” Another subject this novel delves into is Epigenetic trauma. What it means growing up as second gen in America with all it's racial tensions and systematic racism while trying to live up to their parents unrealistic expectations.. Here is how her brother Chris sums it up: "Fucked-up immigrant culture, combining the worst of two countries—all about social perception, can’t find worth in herself so she depends on her kids to reflect it for her. But I could never redeem all the shit’s she’s been through." The Korean stories are mostly about children sacrificing themselves for their parents sake, like the virgin thrown into the bell in it's forging. Other tales are the wood carpenter who steals a fairy's robes so that she stays with him and bares him children, a tale of twin sisters one dead at birth the other wrongfully accused and killed by her step mother and step brothers who comes back to avenge herself, and also the tale of a gumiho daughter who wishes to become human. Helping her explore the Korean lore is Oscar a fellow academic and a Korean adoptee who has some unresolved issues of his own. Despite the description this is not a fantasy novel but a very realistic meditation on immigration, making sense of the parents stories that are somewhat lost in translation and cultural gaps between first and second generation.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Opal E

    Folklorn, by Angela Mi Young Hur, is a complex contemporary literature novel with a heavy layer of magical realism, or is it modern day shamanism? Or schizophrenia? It is many things, it weaves together loaded modern questions about immigration, loneliness, mental illness, adoption, after-war, multiculturality, applied physics, trauma, folklore, mythology and more. This is the type of dense read where people all take away something very different. And while I will try to do justice to the book, e Folklorn, by Angela Mi Young Hur, is a complex contemporary literature novel with a heavy layer of magical realism, or is it modern day shamanism? Or schizophrenia? It is many things, it weaves together loaded modern questions about immigration, loneliness, mental illness, adoption, after-war, multiculturality, applied physics, trauma, folklore, mythology and more. This is the type of dense read where people all take away something very different. And while I will try to do justice to the book, even in a summary of this novel I can only focus on what particularly talked to me, stays in me and the questions it evoked. The novel follows Elsa, a scientist working in Antarctica. She is on edge, brilliant but mentally unhinged by a history of violence - and the mystery her mother leaves her in the form of metaphorical Korean folk tales. Elsa is Korean American, lives in Sweden, works in Antarctica and hasn't been home in a very long time. But can we keep going and build a life when we are always running away and don't understand where we come from? Elsa is hunted by a ghost but who, or rather what is that girl following, reassuring and taunting her... Like for a lot of books in that style we can never quite be sure what the magical elements of the books are: are they metaphors too? A real fantastical entity? Korean shamanism? The imprint of trauma? Or mental illness inherited from an already mentally fragile family… truthfully this is not the point of the book, to me the questions of identity when you are a second generation migrant, the role of a mother, her statues and inheritance, and the question of identity in a shifting world where things are hidden, unspoken become mysterious and hurtful. Everything in the book makes sense and joins together in a fascinating way. I was completely taken in that book and loved its analysis of society, even though I did not like Elsa very much. Her mother describes her as cold-hearted once, and you really do feel it. The mother is happy because that means her daughter won’t suffer to much… but that is when we start wondering if she didn’t become that way because she was pushed to be, and this is what is hurting her and breaking her. This is a book made for multiple analysis, there are many layers to peel and dissect. It is not an enjoyable read per say, but a very satisfactory one for the mind. This is for people who loved “A Tale from the Time Being” by Ruth Ozeki, or the philosophical, metaphysical scientific novels of the Spanish author José Carlos Somoza. I also Recommend Folklorn for people who like to decode patterns and meaning from things and events. This is a smart novel with many strings to follow and weave back into a modern Korean plat.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Kimberly Ouwerkerk

    Have you ever heard of piblokto (Arctic Hysteria) or hwa-byeong (fire sickness)? These are names of culture-bound syndromes that only ‘exist’ in certain cultures and families. Let’s add the title of this book to this list of syndromes. Folklorn is in so many ways one of the best book titles I have ever come across: it hints at feeling lost, a certain (be)longing, and the magic and mystery of folk tales. Through Elsa’s story, you explore what it means to belong somewhere – not only in terms of ori Have you ever heard of piblokto (Arctic Hysteria) or hwa-byeong (fire sickness)? These are names of culture-bound syndromes that only ‘exist’ in certain cultures and families. Let’s add the title of this book to this list of syndromes. Folklorn is in so many ways one of the best book titles I have ever come across: it hints at feeling lost, a certain (be)longing, and the magic and mystery of folk tales. Through Elsa’s story, you explore what it means to belong somewhere – not only in terms of origin, but also in terms of relationships with people (including yourself). The many comments about race and culture and vulgar “jokes” sometimes made me feel uncomfortable and annoyed with Elsa as a narrator. I don’t like her as a person, but I do recognize that she is an insightful storyteller who fits a story like this. In fact, my slight dislike and appreciation shows Angela Mi Young Hur’s writing skills. In Folklorn, you’ll read about what it is like to grow up in another country from two different perspectives: the adoptee and the immigrant. Neither had it easy, but despite being “neglected” by their (foster) parents, the story shows that the (foster) parents did their best with the knowledge that was available at the time. “I just want to be enclosed and untouchable, lest anyone expect me to bloom.” Elsa is not in a happy place, yet that doesn’t make this a depressing story. Her self-mockery and thoughts show a deep-rooted hurt. One of the things that Folklorn does really well is that it creates an understanding of the characters and the situation. Just ask yourself the following question: when you act with someone’s best interests at heart, are you doing what is best for them? Did you ask them? When Elsa returned to the USA, the story got a bit tedious. The balance tipped too much in favor of flashbacks and repetition. Also: the in-depth scientific, historical, and folkloristic explanations can get a bit lengthy at times but if you like the topics, then you’ll appreciate the information. Just when you think the story is going to linger in the past too much, it starts to move forward again. Thank you, Oskar! The folklore is carefully woven into the real story, I especially appreciated the link to the motif from the story of the girl with the blind father. The folktales help to keep Elsa’s story on track. Elsa’s mother and the other people who ensure the transmission of cultural heritage are vigorous and, in their own way, love the next generation. Folklorn is an intriguing read that I encourage you to pick up because it mixes folktales, science, history, and cultural aspects in such a cool way. Many thanks to Erewhon Books and NetGalley for a digital ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Queralt✨

    3.5* Folklorn is a story about the physics, folklore, inherited trauma, and rediscovering love and the self through grief. It follows Elsa Park, a Korean-American scientist doing a PhD in Antarctica and Sweden who re-connects with a (literal) ghost of her past when she is called back home after her mother's death. Magic rooted in folklore blends in modern present day as her mother's story-telling allow her to learn about love, culture, and understanding family. This is a weird one to review becau 3.5* Folklorn is a story about the physics, folklore, inherited trauma, and rediscovering love and the self through grief. It follows Elsa Park, a Korean-American scientist doing a PhD in Antarctica and Sweden who re-connects with a (literal) ghost of her past when she is called back home after her mother's death. Magic rooted in folklore blends in modern present day as her mother's story-telling allow her to learn about love, culture, and understanding family. This is a weird one to review because I struggled through the first 60% of the book (a whooping 60%, yes). It's a slow book with a lot of pieces that slowly come together, which I found to be enjoyable and interesting (most of the times), yet I found the main character to be very unlikable and frustrating. It's weird considering we read the story from her perspective and you would expect I'd dislike his preposterous brother, but it was quite the contrary. My favorite bits were everything involving family dynamics and the introspection and references about the immigrant/expat life. *ARC provided by NetGalley :)

  15. 5 out of 5

    ℳacarena

    "You and I-we are descended from women whose lives have been degraded into common folktales." Angela Mi Young Hur has crafted a unique story. She has gracely woven a modern folktale using complex threads such as immigration, racism, misogyny, violence against women, mental problems, forgiveness, siblinghood, and more. There’s so much meaning in this story. I feel like a can’t write a proper review, one that could make it justice without revealing too much information. I don’t want to give you spoi "You and I-we are descended from women whose lives have been degraded into common folktales." Angela Mi Young Hur has crafted a unique story. She has gracely woven a modern folktale using complex threads such as immigration, racism, misogyny, violence against women, mental problems, forgiveness, siblinghood, and more. There’s so much meaning in this story. I feel like a can’t write a proper review, one that could make it justice without revealing too much information. I don’t want to give you spoilers, so I’ll just tell you that the main character of this story, Elsa Park, must find and understand her mother’s stories in order to finally live her own life. She never understood why her mother used to tell her all these folktales when she was a child, therefore she didn’t understand their true meaning. The only way to understand her mother and herself is by seeing beyond the words of these tales. Thanks to Erewhon Books, NetGalley and the author for providing me with an e-arc in exchange for my honest review.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Cheryl

    Between a 4.5 and a 5 star, but the starkly honest beauty of Hur's prose earns 5 stars for me. Magic rooted in folklore/mythology blends with modern present day. Storytelling becomes a way of understanding family and culture. An excavation to find your role and process generational trauma. Beautiful and brutal imagery with a ribbon of hope throughout. Directly deals with racism, misogyny, immigration, domestic violence, mental health, transnational adoption, constructing an identity as a second Between a 4.5 and a 5 star, but the starkly honest beauty of Hur's prose earns 5 stars for me. Magic rooted in folklore/mythology blends with modern present day. Storytelling becomes a way of understanding family and culture. An excavation to find your role and process generational trauma. Beautiful and brutal imagery with a ribbon of hope throughout. Directly deals with racism, misogyny, immigration, domestic violence, mental health, transnational adoption, constructing an identity as a second generation immigrant. Very ambitious and the author executed it well. This novel is a journey of discovery and transformation so that you can safely inhabit the liminal spaces. I look forward to reading more from Angela Mi Young Hur. Thank you to Netgalley and Erewhon Books for providing a digital ARC in exchage for an honest review.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Mariah Wamby

    “These folktales also began and lived long as oral tradition, passed over generations—stolen notebooks and burning paper can’t kill these women.” Thank you to Netgalley and Erewhon Books for the ARC of Folklorn by Angela Mi Young Hur. The following review is my own. Elsa Park is a particle physicist stationed in Antarctica who’s sense of belonging there is shaken when her childhood imaginary friend suddenly returns. This reunion forces Elsa back into the chaos of her family where she begins to “These folktales also began and lived long as oral tradition, passed over generations—stolen notebooks and burning paper can’t kill these women.” Thank you to Netgalley and Erewhon Books for the ARC of Folklorn by Angela Mi Young Hur. The following review is my own. Elsa Park is a particle physicist stationed in Antarctica who’s sense of belonging there is shaken when her childhood imaginary friend suddenly returns. This reunion forces Elsa back into the chaos of her family where she begins to try and separate her mother’s stories of their Korean heritage into myth and history. While unraveling her mother’s secrets Elsa is faced with the truth of her family’s generational trauma, their history of mental illness, and the damage it has done to each of them. So, do you ever finish a book and then sit there completely overwhelmed and unable to properly convey how it made you feel? That is 💯 how I feel upon finishing Folklorn. This is a heavy story in content and also, at times, in writing style, but it kept me on edge and invested through all of it. This lyrical story has so many layers that I know I will need to read it time and time again before I have any chance of coming close to truly understanding Elsa’s journey. I’m absolutely blown away by this book, and would highly recommend everyone look it up when it is released on April 27th. Folklorn gets five stars from me and I can’t wait to experience this story again and again.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    Thank you to the publishers, Erewhon Books, for giving me access to this novel as an E-ARC via Netgalley. All opinions are my own. Angela Mi Young Hur weaves a beautiful and lyrical story about the question on where you belong in her novel “Folklorn”. The story is quite philosophical and when reading the author is able to emote so many different feelings all connected to the large worldly questions on belonging, what a family is and how oneself is connected to something we can’t fully understand Thank you to the publishers, Erewhon Books, for giving me access to this novel as an E-ARC via Netgalley. All opinions are my own. Angela Mi Young Hur weaves a beautiful and lyrical story about the question on where you belong in her novel “Folklorn”. The story is quite philosophical and when reading the author is able to emote so many different feelings all connected to the large worldly questions on belonging, what a family is and how oneself is connected to something we can’t fully understand. The character in the centre of all this is Elsa Park, a Korean-American physicist and the story around her is set both in the past and in the present and is connected through folktales from Elsa’s childhood. She is on a journey to discover her identity – at least that is what I took from the text – and it shows how hard the topic of identity really is and how much we put into knowing exactly who we are at all times. Living in Stockholm, and having been a student at Stockholm university for six years, the sort of outsider look on Swedish culture and – well – identity was interesting to take part of too. I really enjoyed “Folklorn”. It made me think a lot on difficult questions which is something I, personally, really enjoy in things I read. I want to be challenged a bit and being able to reflect on the book I just read and this novel did just that.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Samantha | thisbookbelongsto.sw

    **Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for this e-ARC. Here's my honest review:** This book felt like slowly drowning in ice water. As a reader, I was so numb to everything that was happening. The main character isn't all that easy to connect with. She's constantly judging people based on their ethnicity* (more on this later) and earlier on in the book her dialogue mostly consists of in-depth physics knowledge about sterile neutrinos, which was impossible to follow (and that ultimately went nowh **Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for this e-ARC. Here's my honest review:** This book felt like slowly drowning in ice water. As a reader, I was so numb to everything that was happening. The main character isn't all that easy to connect with. She's constantly judging people based on their ethnicity* (more on this later) and earlier on in the book her dialogue mostly consists of in-depth physics knowledge about sterile neutrinos, which was impossible to follow (and that ultimately went nowhere). But if you can push through those bits, there is an entertaining bit of magical realism to be found here. The generational mystery and magic (or curse) of the folktales that permeate the main character's life and reality are what kept me interested in this book. It took a while to get used to this author's writing style (and, truth be told, I don't know that I ever did quite get used to it), but it was poetic in its own way. Also, it's likely that the disconnected feeling I had towards this story and main character were a direct result of the writing style. I don't know that the tone of this book really worked for me, but it did make this a unique read. *With regards to the main character judging people on their ethnicity: I understand that this is the story of a second generation immigrant; her life has been shaped by her parents' immigration and war experiences (I grew up in a family like that, too - albeit third generation, but I have a bit of an understanding of the residual pain, anger and resentment felt in those households). That being said: this book takes a very blunt approach to demonstrating the "us versus them" mentality of many first and even second generation immigrants. Because of this, there are aspects of this story that feel blatantly racially insensitive. The main character is Korean, and the way she talks about Japanese people, American people, Chinese people, Swedish people, pretty much any ethnicity that isn't her own often crosses into derogatory. I get that it's a defensive manoeuvre and retaliation that she feels justified in. I'm not going to say whether it's justified or not, just that it is presented in a jarringly blunt way. The ending of this story didn't really leave me fulfilled. I get that the character finds peace, but I, unfortunately, didn't feel the same sense of closure.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Neriman

    A story on intergenerational trauma, postmemory, and migration, Folklorn by Korean American Swedish writer Angela Mi Young Hur follows the curious trajectory of Elsa, an experimental physicist who studies neutrinos, as she questions the the constructed dichotomy between the real and the imaginary, symbols and numbers and truth-telling and tale-spinning. "My mother always spoke Korean to me," Elsa opens her narrative, "but when telling her stories she didn't sound like herself. No rich amber tones A story on intergenerational trauma, postmemory, and migration, Folklorn by Korean American Swedish writer Angela Mi Young Hur follows the curious trajectory of Elsa, an experimental physicist who studies neutrinos, as she questions the the constructed dichotomy between the real and the imaginary, symbols and numbers and truth-telling and tale-spinning. "My mother always spoke Korean to me," Elsa opens her narrative, "but when telling her stories she didn't sound like herself. No rich amber tones, weighted with regret-instead, her voice hollowed like a a will-o'-wisp untethered." The way Elsa begins her story is telling; it foresees the questions that she ceaselessly asks herself, as well as the answers she seeks throughout the novel. Intertwined questions on motherhood, family values, displacement, culture, and race drive the narrative, as Hur masterfully moves beyond the dividing line between past, present, and future. Having taken solace in the world of facts and numbers to protect herself from her seemingly dysfunctional family, Elsa, whose goal as an adolescent is simply "to get out," goes to boarding school, then leaves the U.S. and finds herself first in Sweden working on her post-doc and eventually at the South Pole. When Elsa begins the narrative, she is thirty, and as her friend Jesper tells her, "sometimes you're like a Bergman film-but with more slapstick." Part I offers insight into her anxieties, hopes, and regrets, as Elsa prepares to return to Sweden where she plans to extend her post-doc and continue her research. The South Pole is also where her imaginary friend, whom she hasn't seen since her mother's accident sixteen years ago, reappears. In the sections to follow, Part II and Part III, the intimate link between the mystery surrounding Elsa's mother and her imaginary friend is uncovered. Although this is a painful process, Elsa handles it with humor and grace; Hur's poetic language throughout the novel certainly helps too. Occasionally, time slows down to an extent that makes it a bit difficult to follow the narrative, especially in Part II. However, this is to be expected; in this novel, "time stretch[es] like taffy" and “words melt into inky puddles.” Growing up in California, Elsa and her brother Chris suffer from social and parental alienation. Their childhood is loaded with adult responsibilities, as the two siblings struggle to navigate their relationship with an abusive father and a crestfallen mother, both traumatized by their own family issues in Korea, the lingering effects of the Korean War, and the inevitable loss of home. Theirs is an all-too-familiar story of displacement and survival. And to cope with discrimination, racism, sexism, and abuse from her husband, Elsa's mother finds solace in Korean folktales and stories. In her mother's tales, young girls are sacrificed for prayers and Gods; nymphs are forced into marriages with Kings; sisters are betrayed by their step-mothers, and princesses trapped in a liminal space between Heaven and Hell. “You and I," her mother tells her, "we are descended from women whose lives have been degraded into common folktales. We live their lives, echoing their stories, but not their greatness--only their stupid tragedies because that is all we remember of them.” In order to protect herself from, what her mother calls, the destiny of the women in her family "passed through the simplest direct bloodline," Elsa replaces her mother’s grim tales with science textbooks: "[...] subject[ing] my Barbies to chemistry experiments, and w[inning] science competitions, beating out all the other Asians. Their parents were doctors and professors, but I was the true devotee because science was my survival. The language my mother couldn’t understand--how I disproved and refuted her. [...] I devoted myself to the read instead- numbers, formulae, facts- what Mom couldn't understand but fearfully respected. That's how I reached escape velocity, away from home into a life I'd determined for myself." When her mother passes away, however, Elsa embarks on a mission to not only decode her mother's secrets but also to decipher the true meaning of her fairy tales. She is thus compelled to return to California, confront the past, her imaginary friend, red ribbons, Deer Gods, legendary bells, as well as who she really is. Folklorn is a contemporary origin story that seamlessly weaves Korean folklore within a narrative of identity, migration, and home. Elsa believes that she always chooses science "for its reliable, stable certainties because the rules and empirical evidence diminished my mother and disenchanted her, got me further from home.” However, as the parallel between her research and personal struggles becomes explicit, so does the close link between the personal and the cosmic. We can see Elsa's desire to challenge the perception of neutrinos and, albeit subconsciously at first, of identity as monolithic. Published on readingundertheolivetree.com with more quotes and details. Many thanks to Erewhon Books and NetGalley for the advance copy!

  21. 5 out of 5

    CB_Read

    The first thing I have to say about Angela Hur’s "Folklorn" is that the book is a gift to the imagination. The novel is sprawling, narratively and geographically, and it leads the reader through a meandering, maze-like fantasy. The experience of reading the novel felt like if I didn’t pay attention, I would risk losing a detail that would become significant later, as the little details often were. No single genre can contain this story, but elements of mythology, memoir, and contemporary fiction The first thing I have to say about Angela Hur’s "Folklorn" is that the book is a gift to the imagination. The novel is sprawling, narratively and geographically, and it leads the reader through a meandering, maze-like fantasy. The experience of reading the novel felt like if I didn’t pay attention, I would risk losing a detail that would become significant later, as the little details often were. No single genre can contain this story, but elements of mythology, memoir, and contemporary fiction come together like a chorus that brings this novel to life. Elsa Park is at a peculiar moment of her life. In her early thirties, Elsa is a post-doc in particle physics running experiments at an international research station in Antarctica. She is trying to prove the existence of a specific kind of neutrino, a subatomic particle that can only be traced due to its interactions with other particles. “Neutrinos come in three flavors: muon, tau, electron. As they travel through space, they oscillate, changing from one flavor into another. They change identities, like shape-shifters.” A fourth kind of particle—the sterile neutrino—“would only interact with other active neutrinos, so it’d be even harder to detect than the typical neutrino. Some call it ‘the ghost particle’s ghost.’” Then after a long day on the ice, she joins the rest of the scientists at the station for a party. They’ve made an artificial hot spring out of a large space cut into the ice, and Elsa has immersed herself in the pool. She begins to hear the deep ringing of a bell, but none of the other reveling scientists can hear it. At last she sees her childhood best friend—an imaginary friend—near her in the water: “At the pool’s edge, she rises from the water. Knotted at the end of her braid—a red ribbon unfurls. Turning head over shoulder, she meets my gaze and smiles bittersweet.” She then hears her mother’s voice from far away speaking to her in Korean: “Emmileh, emmileh”—mother, mother. Soon we begin to learn the mythical history of Elsa’s family, a history which is rooted in Korean folktales; except Elsa realizes her family literally is a product of Korean folktales. By having a daughter, Elsa’s mother transmitted to her a cultural history and destiny. In that history and destiny, there are few traditional characters Elsa is allowed to perform. There’s the girl who was traded by her father to a monk and sacrificed in order to make a gigantic bell; there’s the girl who was married to a sea king but left him to return to land and to her blind father; and there’s the girl who was blackmailed by her husband into giving her three children, who then releases her and she flies with all her children to heaven. Elsa gives us the precise definition of this condition: “Folklorn: a more narrowly defined culture-bound syndrome—family-bound.” The story of "Folklorn" then becomes a novel of metaphysical journeying through Korean folklore. By going through these stories, Elsa is able to better understand herself, her family, and take the appropriate steps to process a generation’s worth of repressed emotions and unanswered questions. But there is also a lighter side to these stories. Elsa’s character is richly developed and alternates between being a driven scientist with her colleagues, a dedicated daughter to her father, and a quirky sister with her brother. There are also many scenes that examine the pitfalls of multiculturalism and the pervasive racism of people in Western countries; as a post-doc at a Swedish university, Elsa experiences similar and unique prejudices to living the US. And there so many moving passages throughout the novel—on the beauty of science, the metaphysics of identity, and the nuances of love—weaved into the mythological narrative that you begin to forget what kind of novel you are reading. The answer is simple: "Folklorn" is engaging, unique, and memorable. **My sincere thanks to the good teams at NetGalley and Erewhon Books for providing this ARC.**

  22. 4 out of 5

    Il confine dei libri

    Per leggere la recensione in blog cliccare qui: https://ilconfinedeilibri.blogspot.co... Hello readers! Thanks to Netgalley I had the opportunity to read "Folklorn" by Angela Mi Young Hur, out in April. The first thing I saw of the book was the cover, so elegant and nostalgic. “Folklorn” is a complex, dramatic story. It was not at all what I wanted to read, but I have to admit that objectively it is a deep and beautifully written book. It is a book that explores mental illnesses, a war that has di Per leggere la recensione in blog cliccare qui: https://ilconfinedeilibri.blogspot.co... Hello readers! Thanks to Netgalley I had the opportunity to read "Folklorn" by Angela Mi Young Hur, out in April. The first thing I saw of the book was the cover, so elegant and nostalgic. “Folklorn” is a complex, dramatic story. It was not at all what I wanted to read, but I have to admit that objectively it is a deep and beautifully written book. It is a book that explores mental illnesses, a war that has divided a country, the fate of men, women and especially children torn from their families and their country of origin. It is about a very rich folklore, full of sacrificed, sold, betrayed, lost, young women. And all these tragic elements are perfectly intertwined; parallel roads that collide, causing an emotional earthquake. It is an evocative story, which recalls ancient and almost lost legends of daughters thrown into the sea, girls who turn into lotus flowers, sacrificed daughters whose singing resounds in the ringing of a bell, immortal women trapped by evil men - myths that roar in Elsa’s present and haunt her, a tragic path already established, already followed by her mother. These stories are a warning, a clue, a nightmare and a teaching, they are beautiful and deep. But "Folklorn" does not only speak of folklore, it also speaks of history - the history of Korea, destroyed by the war, and of people forced to emigrate after witnessing unforgettable scenes and having experienced terrible events, like Elsa’s parents: her father, a rich man who lost everything in America, and her mother, a silent shadow surrounded by secrets. It’s a story of racism, the explicit one, of mean words and horrible actions, but mostly the implicit one, of haughty looks. It’s the story of boys and girls torn from their parents' arms to be taken to a better country and to families that, not knowing how to deal with them, nullify their identities in order to make them feel at home. It’a also a story of mental illness, hallucinations, visions, premonitory dreams and obsessions. It’s the story of a family destroyed by pain, war, hatred, hope and illusion. It’s a novel full of painful and heartbreaking stories, centered around Elsa, her need to understand a distant mother and the desperate search for a lost sister. It’s an intense novel, for all the reasons written above, but it’s very well written. At first it’s kind of hard to get into the story because there’s a bit of scientific language and a closed, distant main character, difficult to understand in the beginning. Furthermore, I did not expect this kind of story (I was looking for something more magical), but once you glimpse the core of the novel, the ultimate end, the reading will go fast, it will not be simple, but very touching. I’m not sure I enjoyed reading it, I would have preferred something else, but I can’t say it’s a bad novel. It is perfect for those who like the genre. I received a free copy of this book via NetGalley and I am voluntarily leaving a review.

  23. 5 out of 5

    2TReads

    This got off to a slow start but once we got into the heart of the novel, Young Hur came with a lot, some of which I was not expecting, but that deepened the story she was telling. Being a science-inclined individual, I tend to be drawn to books that feature as the main character someone who is also driven by a desire to discover and study to reach a certain understanding of the forces that are continual and always impacting our existence and experiences. Folklorn does that and then some. Elsa use This got off to a slow start but once we got into the heart of the novel, Young Hur came with a lot, some of which I was not expecting, but that deepened the story she was telling. Being a science-inclined individual, I tend to be drawn to books that feature as the main character someone who is also driven by a desire to discover and study to reach a certain understanding of the forces that are continual and always impacting our existence and experiences. Folklorn does that and then some. Elsa uses her love of Experimental Physics as a refuge, a grounding that allows her to escape the fantastical and otherworldly that seems to affect her mother. But when Elsa seems to be crossing that threshold into the realm of past women and their stories, she begins to wonder if what her mother had tried to tell her may be true. Young Hur also explores difficult family relationships, abuse, acceptance, racism, adoption, identity, belonging and how immigrants occupy, move through and interact in the spaces within which they exist. Our protagonist may have it down when it comes to her work, but she is still searching for her place, trying to straddle being intelligent without crushing egos or stoking resentments, expressing herself authentically in foreign settings, failing at relationships, refusing to be vulnerable, while carrying a burden of history and especially women's history within her family and culture. I love the clashing of the ethereal folktale and the tethered, changing, physical worlds; the similarities that are drawn between both, especially when it comes to the role women and girls play. Integrating the experiences of immigrants and adoptees of Korean descent also brought real-world influences and ordeals to the fore. It also added nuance to our main characters existing in spheres where they garner stereotyped and abusive interactions, and the dissimilar experiences of inhabiting societies that are white at the core. I love that we are getting more than just a maybe haunting, maybe folktale, maybe ghost story. it is slow at the start and can be prose-dense at times, but it definitely pays off in the middle and end. Young Hur adds in all these layered topics that humanize her characters and gives the reader something to think about. We are getting a complex exploration of family, mental illness, dissociative realities, loss, history, and grief.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Hannah Krueger

    Erewhon was kind enough to pass me an ARC of this book, and I was intrigued just from the summary. There’s obviously only so much you can capture in the summary, but honestly, the breadth and depth of this novel is astounding. I took it a few chapters a night, and the sheer range of where the story takes you, even just in four to six chapters a night, is astounding. The breadth of what grief can do to people and what you let yourself believe in to preserve yourself, especially over the generatio Erewhon was kind enough to pass me an ARC of this book, and I was intrigued just from the summary. There’s obviously only so much you can capture in the summary, but honestly, the breadth and depth of this novel is astounding. I took it a few chapters a night, and the sheer range of where the story takes you, even just in four to six chapters a night, is astounding. The breadth of what grief can do to people and what you let yourself believe in to preserve yourself, especially over the generations. Stories, as such, are deeply central to this novel, both folk tales and religious tales and the tales that people and families tell themselves and take their identity from, and the way all of these braid together are astounding. Yes, there’s just a bit of a ghost story in the fantasy sense here, but the ghosts of the past also play into it here too. Again, family and grief and finding the truths to ensure that maybe the next generation can break cycles of abuse and mental illness are at the core here, and as such, it’s a deeply touching story. The way Ms. Mi Young Hur writes is astounding, and is open to making an occasional meta joke at her own expense. I will warn for domestic and parental abuse, but can’t go much more into it than that. This comes out in April; pick it up when it does, pre order it. Angela Mi Young Hur is a talent I’ll be watching.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    This book is a very intimate insight into both cultural and personal identity told through a lens of horror magical realism. It blends a unique mix of physical locations - we visit Antarctica, Sweden and the US, while the heart of the story is deeply haunted by South Korean history and folklore. Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for giving me access to this book.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Terence DeToy

    *Spoilers* Angela Mi Young Hur’s 2021 novel Folklorn is about self-discovery, or rather the discovery of the self. In the course of these pages, Elsa Park sets out to find herself, but not in the way you might expect. When we meet Elsa, she’s working as a particle physicist at a laboratory in the Antarctic. The point is clear: she’s as emotionally isolated as she is physically. An Asian woman having spent her life moving through white-dominated spaces, she feels disconnected from her history, her *Spoilers* Angela Mi Young Hur’s 2021 novel Folklorn is about self-discovery, or rather the discovery of the self. In the course of these pages, Elsa Park sets out to find herself, but not in the way you might expect. When we meet Elsa, she’s working as a particle physicist at a laboratory in the Antarctic. The point is clear: she’s as emotionally isolated as she is physically. An Asian woman having spent her life moving through white-dominated spaces, she feels disconnected from her history, her heritage and herself. She articulates her displacement through a series of folktales that break the novel into segments. These stories convey an unsettling disregard for women: they casually discarded or murdered by their lovers or male kin. One haunting story is about a young girl that is offered up to a monk by her father to absolve his sins. The monk smelts her down, literally mixing her with the molten metal used to craft a sacred bell. Forevermore, the bell has an enchanted ring. It’s a haunting tale, like a voice escaping fingers trying to muffle a mouth. It reminds us that often our loftiest values—like beauty and our pursuit of the transcendent—are grounded in the pain we inflict on women. This story emerges early in Folklorn and haunts Elsa throughout its pages. She searches for expiation, even trying to locate the bell the legend is based on. But these tales bear a generational weight. The suffering of these girls gets bound up in her mother’s suffering. Furthermore, her mother’s life proves to be a mystery, even to her children. Filled with inexplicable gaps and lacunae, the more Elsa looks, the more her mother becomes one of her folktales. She says of her father: “he worked all day and night, beating his tools against metal, and spoke his new language the same way.” Considering the importance of language in Folklorn, this should tell us quite a lot. He strikes metal like the monk striking his newly forged bell. Identity is bound up in storytelling; it’s a function of language both forging connections and drawing lines. Elsa tells and re-tells her family story through these folktales. They are both a way to articulate her experience and to interpret it. A cruel man drives many of these stories and Elsa’s father certainly fits the bill. He’s a hard, vindictive character. Years of his fury have helped to warp her older brother Chris into an emotional train wreck. While Elsa is out in the world, wafting and disconnected, Chris has been trapped at home reaching the edge of his sanity. If their father is comet striking, their mother is a black hole. She’s been rendered comatose before the start of the novel and passes away while Elsa is overseas. We only ever meet her in memories. As it turns out, this isn’t far off from how Elsa knew her. After she dies, Elsa collects and translates a collection of tales she has left behind with the help of Oskar, a dashing Korean-Swedish literature professor. Through this connection, Elsa starts to reclaim the meaning behind these stories. It is only through these stories that she comes to learn who her mother really was, and who in turn she is. For Chris, these stories represent nothing beyond her own insanity, but for Elsa they contain history and meaning. This is one of Folklorn’s triumphs: Hur quite cleverly allows both possibilities to occupy the same space. The novel presents itself through a plurality of genres just as Elsa comes to understand herself through a plurality of identities, all overlapping and overlaying. There’s so much going on in this novel, it can be difficult to keep it straight. It’s an extremely ambitious work, but does it hold together? It’s hard to say. Perhaps because that depends on what we make of Elsa’s journey, which is geographical, emotional, and mythological (among other things). This is what I consider “the Contact question,” named after Robert Zemeckis’ 1997 film: namely, is this a journey of the most extraordinary kind or a journey where nothing really happens? Only the reader can settle this question. Fittingly, the narrative traverses several genre-spaces: part fantasy, part sci-fi, part romance, part ghost story, part mytho-historiography, Folklorn is a novel that challenges its readers to in multiple ways simultaneously. Is Elsa in tune with the spiritual or is she just crazy? Is her search for her lost sister reflect a genuine desire for truth, or a deluded obsession? Does she just need a good life coach? Hur is trying to get us to see that just by asking these questions, we are drawing up dichotomies that force us to totalize our reading of the novel. Folklorn is a novel that cannot simply be read one way. As Elsa herself understands, she feels more than displaced. She recognizes that even in Korea she would still feel like an outsider (as Oskar himself discovers). For Elsa, the anguish comes with being stuck in a wretched state of in-between-ness. However, part of what she comes to find is that even from her position there exists the possibility for meaningful connection. Perhaps what she learns from these stories is that ‘in-between’ can mean ‘both’ as much as it means ‘neither.’ For all Elsa’s alienation, this novel is really about finding connection. This leap of self-discovery is what Chris struggles with. He left college after he started receiving prophetic dreams. We learn in time that his mother had similar experiences. This opens questions about the relationship between these dreams and her stories. Chris himself has an on-off relationship with the church, something else he shares with his mother who liberally mixed Christianity with Korean myth and ritual. Chris has both a troubling ability to float away from reality and an uncanny knack for discerning truth. He is both madman and prophet. The devil is in the details. When we learn later in the novel that he is schizophrenic, it’s satisfying answer narratively speaking…and yet not. Hur is careful not to let the reader reduce this double-edged gift to such a crassly scientific explanation. Folklorn leaves you with a lingering sense of, “Yes, but…” Psychology and the paranormal share unguarded boundaries in Folklorn. Elsa’s private companion is the ghost of her dead sister, despite her life-long suspicion that her sister is actually alive. Elsa, as always, has each foot on either side of a line. When she starts to translate her mother’s stories in the second half of the novel, she retraces her mother’s history, sleuthing her connections and where (and who) her sister might be. When this possibility starts to gain momentum, the ghost is vanquished. For a long stretch in Folklorn, neither Elsa nor the reader see her. Crushingly, we learn near the end of the novel that her sister did in fact die at birth. Chris, as he often is, is right all along. Elsa experiences a deep, profound tremor of the heart. When she returns, it is with the fury of a neglected intimate who, like Chris, has been telling her the truth all along in her own way: See? I told you so. That’s what you get for hoping. We never learn whether Elsa is suffering from mental illness or if she really can see her dead sister. Asking that question is to miss the point. The diagnosis is literary, not psychological? Elsa herself researches neutrinos: the famed “ghost particle.” She’s a physicist specializing in particles that have a reputation for walking the tightrope between existence and non-existence. The scientific and the supernatural share a playful dance through Folklorn. Even as she seems to be approaching a breakdown, the novel is replete with eerie coincidences, as if to suggest that she is on to something after all. Perhaps schizophrenia and prophecy aren’t mutually exclusive. Elsa’s mother refers to America as “this new plastic country.” Part of what she means is surely the American fascination with surface-level appearances: our rampant consumerism and its capacity to distill temporality, identity and history into commodified objects. This is part of the larger phenomenon referred to ‘postmodernism’: one of the most nebulous, misunderstood terms in use today. For the critic Fredric Jameson, the ‘postmodern’ refers to a process of historical flattening. Contemporary art in all its forms evacuates historicity and with it, the meaning of human relationships. Folklorn is trying to do for the reader what Elsa’s mother’s stories do for her: pierce through that flatness. Elsa’s mother has inherited a wealth of stories, which interweave with personal experiences and family history. They form a poetic self-history, somehow both dark and vibrant. She too passes these on, albeit in a cryptic form. Perhaps she becomes ambivalent about their power to hold meaning in this new land; perhaps their weight is too much. It’s never clear just why she withholds them. Perhaps they are simply something Elsa has to search for, their richness only visible with active pursuit. While Folklorn is ostensibly focused on the Asian-American experience, Hur is telling a deeper human story that speaks to all readers: a story about the power of myth making and the yearning for connection. Hur’s prose is dizzyingly quick. You may need stop and gather your bearings after every chapter. For a novel as carefully meditative as this one, it can hardly sit still. Elsa flits from situation to situation with a sort of manic energy. But Hur manages this constant motion with deft, flexible prose. Folklorn remains conceptually and emotionally dense, and yet as a read, it is light and vibrant. Hur manages to tackle sometime timeless issues with a narrative that is sharply relevant. I’m not sure how she quite pulls this off. This is one of those books you can go back and read over and over again, peeling away layer after layer like an onion. And like with onions,

  27. 5 out of 5

    Madeline

    There are many things that I enjoyed about Folklorn. Overall the author's telling with the usage of folklore was beautiful and the writing was lovely. I also really enjoyed part of the plot taking place in a higher academic setting--the usage of language and the the parallel of Elsa's scientific studies with her own journey were intriguing. I also enjoyed her slapstick way of communicating, as well as the stream of conscious of her thoughts from cultural stereotypes to reasoning and flashbacks. There are many things that I enjoyed about Folklorn. Overall the author's telling with the usage of folklore was beautiful and the writing was lovely. I also really enjoyed part of the plot taking place in a higher academic setting--the usage of language and the the parallel of Elsa's scientific studies with her own journey were intriguing. I also enjoyed her slapstick way of communicating, as well as the stream of conscious of her thoughts from cultural stereotypes to reasoning and flashbacks. I cannot highlight these points enough--they alone made the book worth reading. That being said, there were also a number of things I didn't enjoy about the book. But before I go further, I would like, first, to note that I am likely not the intended reader for such a book. As such, please take my criticisms of Folklorn with a grain of salt. I felt it hard to connect with the story in general--something that I really don't understand because I really did enjoy the premise and all of the elements in Folklorn. Perhaps this is due to how drawn-out the opening 30% of the book felt. But some of actions taken and things said by Elsa felt counterintuitive to how the plot developed. Thank you to NetGalley for the eARC.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Eric

    TL;DR Folklorn focuses on families and the ties that bind blood together. Angela Mi Young Hur asks if we can ever escape the legacy that is our family. I highly recommend you read this meditation on family. Disclaimer: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher on Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. Read more of my reviews at Primmlife.com Review: Folklorn by Angela Mi Young Hur Stories are as integral to families as anything. Who we are comes from the stories our familie TL;DR Folklorn focuses on families and the ties that bind blood together. Angela Mi Young Hur asks if we can ever escape the legacy that is our family. I highly recommend you read this meditation on family. Disclaimer: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher on Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. Read more of my reviews at Primmlife.com Review: Folklorn by Angela Mi Young Hur Stories are as integral to families as anything. Who we are comes from the stories our families tell. On my dad’s side of the family, we’re farmers and readers. That’s the stories we tell. Some of my most important stories take place on my grandparents farm, and when I talk about that side of my family, those are the stories I tell. We tell stories about connections to the land, working it, teaching future generations to work it, etc. But what stories do immigrants tell each other? What stories do families tell when they’re uprooted from their land by war? What stories does the next generation tell each other? These question interest me because my country isn’t very accommodating to immigrants at the moment. And it’s never been very accommodating to immigrants of color. But immigrants do come here, and they make their own stories despite the institutional and, often, overt racism they face. How does this affect the stories their families tell each other? In Angela Mi Young Hur’s Folklorn readers get the story of Elsa Park and her family. But the stories Elsa and her mother tell root themselves in Korean myth. Layered upon these stories are a mental illness that might be passed on to Elsa. As a scientist, Elsa has used her intelligence to run across the globe from her family, but can she run from the stories of her family? Folklorn starts Chapter One in the antarctic. Elsa Park is a post-doctoral physics researcher studying neutrinos. We, the readers, get introduced to her in her professional capacity, and right away, we get her thoughts on her family and her vocation. Elsa, a very intelligent person working in advanced scientific fields, soon begins to see her childhood, imaginary friend. The return of her friend occurs close to when her catatonic mother speaks for the first time in years. In Southern California. Instead of wintering at the South Pole, Elsa returns to Sweden, which is where she’s doing her post-doctoral research. Her imaginary friend follows her, and Elsa begins to wonder if she couldn’t outrun the legacy of her family. Before I started this book, I knew nothing about Korean myths and had no plans to learn. Other than this book, I know nothing about Korean myth. After reading Folklorn, I have it on my to do list to check out Korean myths. Because I don’t know if Hur used actual myths for this book or created her own. But the myths are fantastic. There is one about a young woman drowning herself to meet her father, the king of the sea. It…well, who knows why certain stories hit so hard the way they do, but I put the book down after reading this myth. I had to process it, and I still think about it occasionally. I don’t know that I’ll ever look at lotus flowers the same. I received access to this book prior to the Atlanta spa shootings that brought anti-Asian racism to the forefront of American consciousness. Hur talks a lot about wearing Korean skin in white spaces. (And I apologize if I’m saying this wrong.) Her descriptions of how white people – especially white men – look at her were rough to read, though, no doubt accurate. I can’t imagine how worse these looks are to experience. At one point, in ‘englightened’ Sweden, Hur writes a scene with anti-Asian racism that, unfortunately, was too easy for me to imagine. What I can’t imagine is how exhausting it must be to be on guard for each and every potential interaction. Writing Folklorn is told in first person, stream of consciousness point of view. This worked so well. Folklorn is beautifully written, as in I enjoy how it was constructed, but also it is a good example of form adding to function. It reads like a diary entry; yet, I know it is carefully constructed. It’s so well done, and I’m in awe of how balanced it is. The pitfall with stream of consciousness writing is that it can feel self-indulgent and navel gazey-ish. Folklorn never crosses that line, and Elsa’s tale feels immediate and urgent. For most of the reading, I felt a tension between avoiding and confronting the legacy of her mother. In parts, I wanted her to face her demons, and in part, I just wanted to hear her navigate the world. The first person, stream-of-consciousness writing reflected upon Elsa’s life, but it read a little slow. The pacing of this novel is very, very slow. Elsa dwells in moments. She reflects upon her surroundings, her past, and her fears. At times, this was a bit too slow for me, but these moments were few. A Parent's Illness For as long as I can remember, my mother had Multiple Sclerosis. It affected her mental state. How much? I’ll never know. But the way I felt about her illness, the tension any time someone called me to talk about Mom, Hur captures in Folklorn. Sometimes, it brought back uncomfortable memories. Painful memories. But that just signals to me that this is good art. Folklorn made me feel, made me miss my parents. In one of the chapters, Ms. Hur talks about a parents death as a second chance to meet them because you get to go through their stuff and see what they hid from you. You meet the secret parts of them. Having gone through my Mom’s possessions after she passed and not being able to sort my father’s things after he passed, I can tell Ms. Hur that she’s correct. With that sentence, she hit the bullseye. Hur has a talent for capturing the tension a child feels about an ill parent. And no matter our age, we are all children when our parents are sick. Conclusion Angela Mi Young Hur’s Folklorn is a book about family. Elsa Park shows us that no matter how far we run across the globe, there are roots somewhere that ground us in a past – one we may like or despise. For Elsa, the roots are a family dealing with mental and physical illnesses. And upon her mother speaking again after years of catatonia, Elsa goes home to learn new stories and see if she’ll continue or break her family’s legacy. Folklorn tells the story of the Parks family, and it’s a story worth learning. Folklorn by Angela Mi Young Hur from Erewhon Books on April 17th, 2021.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca Crunden

    I am absolutely in love with this glorious, colourful cover. It's so bloody fabulous, I am just in awe. ➵ thank you netgalley for the free arc in exchange for an honest review ♡ I am absolutely in love with this glorious, colourful cover. It's so bloody fabulous, I am just in awe. ➵ thank you netgalley for the free arc in exchange for an honest review ♡

  30. 5 out of 5

    Nora

    This book was truly beautiful. The exploration of grief and race and womanhood and so much more was so eloquently done. At times the writing could get a bit intense and confusing, but the story was so captivating and real that I honestly didn't mind. Elsa's journey was fascinating, from her mother's stories to her exploration of physics, and I really loved the discussion of family that filled the whole book. The ending was magical and profoundly bittersweet and I loved how the whole book just se This book was truly beautiful. The exploration of grief and race and womanhood and so much more was so eloquently done. At times the writing could get a bit intense and confusing, but the story was so captivating and real that I honestly didn't mind. Elsa's journey was fascinating, from her mother's stories to her exploration of physics, and I really loved the discussion of family that filled the whole book. The ending was magical and profoundly bittersweet and I loved how the whole book just seemed so connected. Folklorn is such an important book and was truly an enchanting discussion on so many things that I couldn't even begin to fully list out. Thank you to NetGalley and Erewhon Books for providing me with this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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