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This Burns My Heart

This Burns My Heart

A Novel

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In this compelling love story set in postwar Korea in the 1960s, an unhappily married woman struggles to give her daughter a good life and to find love in a society caught between ancient tradition and change.

Beautiful and ambitious, Soo-Ja Choi attempts to find happiness in a land where wives have no rights and mothers own nothing, where love remains elusive, and the only way to survive is to live the lessons of Confucian tradition: perseverance, strength, loyalty, and grace. Charting her way through an ill-advised marriage, Soo-Ja must navigate the intrigue and dangers of living with her conniving in-laws, all the while longing for her true love of the past, the elusive Doctor Yul. And when he enters her life again, Soo-Ja is confronted with a final chance at happiness, but must make a mother’s ultimate choice.

Epic and intimate, Park’s debut offering—based on his own mother’s story—is a snapshot of a nation rising from a poor, rural country into a major world power in the aftermath of a devastating war. This Burns My Heart evokes a strong sense of place and era reminiscent of Sarah Waters, and the richly drawn characters and exploration of women’s changing roles brings to mind Lisa See.
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  • Simon & Schuster | 
  • 320 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781439199633 | 
  • July 2011
List Price $16.99

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This Burns My Heart

The story of young woman in South Korea in the 1960s who is asked to make an irredeemable choice that changes her life completely when she makes the wrong one.

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This Burns My Heart chapter one
Soo-Ja knew about the stranger. The one following her for the last four blocks. She kept her pace even—her instinct in situations like this was not to be scared, but to see it as a battle of wits, as if she’d been handed a puzzle, or a task. She wanted to lose him, but do so elegantly, in the manner of a great escape artist. Her friend Jae-Hwa—walking next to her, her homemade knit scarf blowing in the brisk Siberian wind—hadn’t noticed him, and kept... see more

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Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for This Burns My Heart includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Samuel Park. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.

INTRODUCTION

Set in South Korea during the 1960s, This Burns My Heart centers around Soo-Ja, an ambitious young woman who finds herself trapped in an unhappy, controlling marriage. She struggles to give her daughter a better life and to overcome the oppression of her husband, while pining for the man she truly loves. Ultimately, she must make her own way in a society caught between tradition and modernity.

TOPICS & QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION

  1. Early in their courtship, Soo-Ja thinks of Min as weak: “But what she realized was that she wouldn’t mind that—being the strong one. She’d like to swoop in and care for Min, who seemed like such a lost soul sometimes… He was the opposite of Yul, who seemed to need nothing and no one.” (p. 51-52) Is Soo-Ja’s perception accurate? Does Min change throughout the book, or has he just masked himself during their courtship? Is Soo-Ja naïve to want such an unbalanced (and untraditional) relationship?
  2. Soo
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