Title: Miracle On Cherry Hill (original title: 뒤뜰에 골칫거리가 산다)
Writer: Sun – mi Hwang (translated by Chi-Young Kim)
Publishing House: Abacus
Date of Publication: July 4th 2019 (first published 2014)
Rating: 5 stars
‘’It rained for two days straight. The trees howled in the back garden and angry rain lashed against the windows. Kand realised for the first time that he had locked himself on an island of his own making. He waited impatiently for the rain to stop, for mourning to come ‘Look, Sir Limp. This is my father. Our father. Remember this face, okay?’ Kang only had the tumour to talk to. He was reduced to talking to that troublemaker, the thief eating away at him.’’
Kang Dae-su returns to Cherry Hill, the place of his childhood. Having been diagnosed with a brain tumour, he wants isolation and peace and quiet. Yet, this will prove to be impossible. There is a fixed plan on the development of the neighbourhood and they don’t really care about Kang’s wishes. What is going on with Cherry Hill? Who is the owner and who the intruder? And why does everyone seem to have a key and self-proclaimed right to his property?
Sun-mi Hwang creates a story that is quirky, whimsical, elegantly funny and poignant. There is an acute need to protect the sense of ownership and individualism within a close-knit community. That’s all Kang needs in his constant struggle with the unwelcome, malicious visitor. And ‘’intruders’’ are seen in various forms and incidents. But are they intruders or good omens that try to help Kang out of his sadness?
Most of the characters in this charming novel end in a surprising manner, and even though the tone is often playful, the heart of the story is dark. There are many uncomfortable truths beneath the surface and the novel is strong in interesting characters and a multitude of tales -within- the tale, the personal stories of the people Kang meets are fascinating. The issues faced by mixed-race children, a strange old lady and her sweet granddaughter, Park’s daily efforts to satisfy Kang, a rather difficult boss.
In elegant humour and deep tenderness, Kang’s bittersweet reflections on life, relationships and the potential futility of it all are moving. A troubled childhood and the need to prove that we rule our fate. The old enmities that return when we least expect them. Parenthood and growing up without a mother. Loneliness and the ‘’duty’’ of mingling with the neighbours when the only thing you want is to be left alone. Not to mention the cats, hens, and cockerels. And unattended gardens.
As the cherry blossoms symbolize purity and beauty in Korean tradition, so Kang’s story becomes a passage to a hopeful future. And you are going to fall in love with the chapter Little Girl Asks Why which reminded me of Oscar Wilde’s The Selfish Giant.
Beautiful, moving Author’s Note by Sun-mi Hwang.
‘’Angels who forgot that heaven exists. Old angels who forgot where they’re supposed to go. Who forgot their wings.’’
Many thanks to Abacus and NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.