Jen Frederick’s Heart and Seoul is a complex look at family through every lens. Hara is Korean, adopted by white parents, and raised in Iowa. Yet, for her entire life, she’s felt other, Korean in appearance only, questioned and taunted as a child for her flat face and the shape of her eyes. Although Hara’s mother tried to educate her about Korean culture, Hara resisted it every step of the way.
Hara’s parents divorced when she was a child; her father remarried and had a child with his new wife. The book opens at her father’s funeral, where Hara overhears someone referring to her step-brother as her father’s real son.
In reaction to that comment, Hara decides to go to Seoul and find her birth father. At the airport, she mistakes the handsome and charming Choi Yujon for her driver. Yujon and Hara will develop the kind of friendship that will put hearts where their irises should be.
Although marketed as a romance, Heart and Seoul is a book about belonging, the sting of being an outsider, and the tricky landscape we all navigate as we try to fold our disparate parts into a complete and functioning whole.
The end of this novel is a surprise on many levels and left me wanting more. Fortunately, Seoulmates, which continues the story of Hara and Yujon, publishes on January 25.
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