Monday 28 December 2020

Book Review: Folklorn by Angela Mi Young Hur (Magical Realism/Fantasy)

Title: Folklorn
Author: Angela Mi Young Hur
Publisher: Erewhon
Publication Date: 27 April 2021
eBook - EPUB
Genre: Magical Realism/Fantasy
Source: ARC via NetGalley

A genre-defying, continent-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.


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. It's 5 stars from me.

I received this book as a free eBook ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

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