The Shaman of Turtle Valley by Clifford Garstang
It is the very best thing, as a bookworm, when a book falls into your lap in a very serendipitous way - that is to say, that you end up with a copy of a book that you end up ADORING, while very much recognizing that you may never have found it on your own.
With that said, many, many, many thanks are due to JKS Communications for sending me this one and having confidence in the fact that I would love this despite it not being my “usual” genre of reading.
Clifford Garstang is a name you should put on your radar now, because with an ability to write as beautifully as this, there is no question he will have a long and celebrated career as a novelist. This book is written in such an exceptionally stunning style, it felt almost like reading music - it flows so naturally that you find yourself completely immersed in the story and completely not aware of the time that has passed you by.
I love that this story really explores the meaning and complexity of family - and how that meaning can change in the face of adversity. This book is so fascinating in the ways that Clifford explores the melding of an American and Korean family, and the devastation and grief of leaving a culture behind. This is a deeply powerful story of the joys and sorrows of humanity and the ability to heal.
I certainly will admit I knew very little about Korean culture ahead of reading this one - and the way that Clifford drew in Korean beliefs in spirits and shamanism was so wonderful - I have more than once since reading this, found myself jumping head first into learning more and investigating this culture in a more meaningful way. I truly appreciate an author who can create a sense of resonance for a reader, despite your shortcomings on the topic.
This is a book that I truly don’t want to over-review, because there is so little I think I can say that does this work justice. The truth is that this book just needs to be on your summer TBR, without question or hesitation. Jump in with both feet on this book, and find yourself like me, recommending it left and right for people to fall in love with, just like I did.
The author of the award-winning What the Zhang Boys Know ("...utterly beautiful and unforgettable"--Kevin Wilson, author of The Family Fang) now gives us a heart-rending first novel about love, displacement, and the powerful ghosts that haunt so many families.
The Alexanders have farmed the land in Turtle Valley for generations, and their family and its history is tied to this mountainous region of Virginia in ways few others can claim. When Gulf War veteran Aiden Alexander brings home a young and pregnant South Korean bride, he hopes at long last to claim his own place in that complicated history--coming out from behind the shadow of his tragically killed older brother and taking up a new place in his father's affections. However, things do not go according to plan. While he loves his young son, his wife, Soon-hee, can't--or won't-- adjust to life in America. Her behavior growing stranger and stranger to Aiken's eyes every day until the marriage reaches a breaking point.
When Soon-hee disappears with their son, Aiken's life and dreams truly fall apart--he loses his job, is compelled to return to the family home, and falls prey to all his worst impulses. It is at this low point that Aiken's story becomes interwoven with a dubious Alexander family history, one that pitted brother against brother and now cousin against cousin, in a perfect storm of violence and dysfunction.