A Virgin Homicide as Told by the Girls She Left Behind

Robert Hundley

By Kwon Yeo-solar
Translated by Janet Hong

Kim Hae-on is wonderful, younger, female — and useless. It is the summer time of 2002, the FIFA Earth Cup draws to a shut and Hae-on’s body is found out in the flower bed of a park in Seoul.

At very first look, Kwon Yeo-sun’s “Lemon” seems to be your regular whodunit considerably of its 1st chapter is committed to an interview amongst detective and suspect. But then Kwon directs the reader’s interest elsewhere. Of course, by the conclusion, the reader will know who the killer is, but that knowledge takes a back again seat in this poignant tale.

A taut novella in eight vignettes, “Lemon” is not so much narrated as spilled, confessed, blurted out in the alternating voices of 3 ladies recalling a tragedy that took area when they were being in higher faculty. The first and most central of these is Da-on, Hae-on’s youthful sister.

Da-on and her mom cope with their loss in weird strategies, their grief uncomfortable and rather hopeless. Hae-on’s mom goes to fantastic lengths to transform the identify of her dead daughter back to her start identify, Hye-eun, for “she seemed to assume my sister’s lifestyle had absent mistaken simply because of the title change.” And in her possess warped tribute, Da-on undergoes plastic surgical procedures in get to a lot more carefully resemble her breathtaking dead sister.

Hae-on’s great seems are praised all over, Kwon relying closely on the literary motif of the comely, virginal sufferer. As with several of the slain fictional women of all ages who arrived just before her, the specter of Hae-on is profoundly romanticized, her demise all the a lot more tragic mainly because of how attractive she was. “My sister was wonderful,” Da-on says. “Unforgettably so. She was perfection, bliss personified. But extra than nearly anything, she was at that mythical age: 18. Who dared destroy her beautiful type?”

The second narrator, Hae-on’s classmate Sanghui, admits that there was not substantially to say about Hae-on beyond her “absolute, staggering elegance.” She contrasts this with her heat memories of Da-on, who “brimmed with enthusiasm and curiosity. She was pleasurable and savvy in all her dealings, but most of all, she laughed more than anybody.” Da-on addresses Sanghui as “eonni” — a phrase reserved for more mature women and ladies whom just one feels closest to, and it is by means of Sanghui’s lens that we witness Da-on’s stark physical and psychological transformations.

Da-on’s grief is twofold: She mourns the decline of Hae-on even as she asks herself if she at any time loved her aloof, unreadable sister. “She did absolutely nothing and imagined nothing,” Da-on thinks. “She considered no a person and harmed no one.” When Da-on eventually resurfaces from a period of time of grieving she describes as “plummeting down a deep nicely,” her initial need is for revenge. She seeks out the prime suspect, a guy named Han Manu, and finds a existence riddled with tragedy.

Yun Taerim, the third narrator and a different classmate of Hae-on’s, is a lady saddled with a magic formula. She tries to unburden herself by means of staccato but rambling monologues, not able to say the a single point that might totally free her. She teases the reader with details and then flip-flops like a fish on a slab.

Kwon usually takes edge of the a number of views at her disposal. What one narrator sees as a kindness, an additional shows to be an act of requirement what 1 assumes is solicitation is later disclosed to be reckless. To Sanghui, it is amusing how Da-on would inspect her sister’s uniform every working day whilst her have blouse was stained later on Da-on points out that she had to be diligent mainly because Hae-on typically forgot to set on underwear. These “discoveries” are for the reader’s benefit. As is sometimes the scenario in life, the narrators are hardly ever disabused of the notions they maintain.

They exist much more as motor vehicles by way of which the tale is explained to than as flesh-and-blood people. A reader would be really hard pressed to pinpoint their inner characteristics or quirks. But the tale is told so vividly and poetically that it doesn’t undergo much for this lack of insight.

“Lemon” is effortless to devour in 1 sitting, but my information is: Do not. I was so concentrated on the murder that I nearly missed a further thriller unfolding suitable just before my eyes. “Lemon” should really be go through slowly and gradually and carefully in get to enjoy it when Kwon pulls off what I can describe only as a sleight of hand. She crops bread crumbs that reward the attentive reader, and make for an specifically enjoyable next read through. Luckily, it is quick plenty of to start all around yet again.

An growth on Kwon’s 2016 short tale “You Do Not Know,” “Lemon” is the South Korean author’s initial e-book to be revealed in English. In Janet Hong’s translation, Kwon’s creating is masterly. Her sentences are crisp, concise and strong just one particular has as a great deal this means as two or a few of your normal storyteller’s. Da-on recollects her father’s annoyance at a damaged cigarette exquisitely: “After dwelling a mundane, dull everyday living, the place a trivial incident like this was trigger plenty of for him to grow to be offended, he died.” Her hypnotic influence will keep with the reader prolonged immediately after the previous web site has been read through. You will wish there had been far more but you will be grateful it ended as it did.

“Lemon,” significantly like the fruit, is a brilliant, rigorous, refreshing story.

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