The Return, by Silvia Kwon
The Return, by Silvia Kwon. Sydney, NSW : Hachette Australia, 2014.
Australian Women Writers
A wise, emotionally gripping novel about a rural Australian woman trying to keep peace between her husband, a traumatized veteran of World War II, and her son, who marries a Japanese woman. A novel of love, hatred, and forgiveness.
Like many women, Merna is at the center of her family, trying to hold it together. Frank, her husband, had returned from World War II devastated by what he had suffered. The war changed him into a silent, hostile man, unwilling to let go of his hatred of the Japanese. He could not forgive his son for working in Japan and marrying Miko, a Japanese woman. When the young couple returns to the family farm and small fictional town nearby, they face hatred on all sides. Merna understands the hatred, but she struggles to transcend it. Her tolerance for her husband’s anger diminishes, and she grows to love Miko, but her path is difficult.
Silvia Kwon was born in Korea and came to Australia with her parents as a child. She has worked in the publishing industry and this is her first novel. She brings rare insight into her characters. Merna, in particular, is a complex and conflicted character, often unable to reconcile those around her. Kwon is able to depict hatred and prejudice as understandable, but not justifiable, and to show the small steps that can begin to undermine it.
I strongly recommend The Return to all readers seeking to understand the widespread anger and prejudice we see in today’s world and to move beyond the wars and trauma that many have experienced