The Kinship of Secrets: A refreshing read, diving into rich Korean culture and families

I have read a lot of books on World War I and II but never about the Korean War. It was a refreshing read, a dive into rich Korean culture and families. The writing is easy and words I recognise from watching too much Korean Drama. All the characters have rich, unique personalities and are lovable. The storyline develops with the time and is an effort to pen down the struggle of a family through wars and distance.

Najin Cho and Calvin Cho sail from Korea to the US with their daughter Miran, hoping for better conditions and good money. They leave their other daughter, Inja, with her maternal family. A sacrifice Najin’s brother sees as dedication, love of a sister and a promise to come back. A sacrifice that haunts Najin forever. Inja grows up receiving packages of food, clothes and shoes from her mother in America, the one she has never seen. Miran grows up sending packages for her almost twin sister to Korea and sudden bursts of intimacy from her mother. There’s not enough money to go back to Korea yet.

But then, North Korea army troops to South Korea and The Han Family including Inja’s grandparents, uncle and aunt move south and settle in Busan for a while. While Inja faces hunger, scarcity of water, cold and a city with ashes of the dead, Miran learns piano, listens to music, plays in the backyard and faces emotional unavailability of her mother. Najin blames herself for not being a good mother to Inja or Miran for she is always yearning for Inja and can’t get her to America. And on the other hand, she is unable to pay enough attention to the daughter she chose to bring with her to the US.

Inja learns about her mother from her grandmother and her uncle. She keeps a photo album of her family in America. She wonders why did her mother choose to leave her behind? She tries to imagine what would it feel like to have a mother and a sister. In all her letters Najin talks of a reunion but since its already been 15 years, Inja doesn’t even see it as reality. Until one day her father is able to get through the red tape and sends a ticket.
Inja is a Korean, and she believes her family, her home is in Korea. But she is uprooted and sent to America to a family she has never known. Suddenly after 16 years, Miran’s almost twin sister is in flesh and bones in front of her. It takes time for two sisters to understand each other and form a bond. Inja instantly feels closer to her father and takes time becoming the daughter her mother wants her to be.

The Kinship of Secrets is a story of a family keeping secrets to spare each other the pain and hurt each has suffered. It is a story of a Korean girl who grew up in America trying to find out where she belongs. A story of a Korean girl who grew up in Korea and finds herself in America holding on to her Korean traditions and history.