What Is Love?

Myung Sook Jang

Publisher: Trafford Pages: 109 Price: (paperback) $13.57 ISBN: 9781412088923 Reviewed: April, 2012 Author Website: Visit »

The title says it all in this heartfelt personal story from Myung Sook Jang, a Korean woman in her 60s reflecting back on her earlier years. She describes the first 20 years of her married life as those of dutiful sacrifice, caring not only for her husband and three children, but working laboriously for her husband’s in-laws while rarely having time for her own parents.

The author feels no love from her husband (unnamed here), who insists on sleeping in bed without touching and who doesn’t want to ever kiss her or even hold her hand. In her 50s, the author unexpectedly runs into Mug, an old high school classmate. Through an affair with him she finds the emotional outlet lacking in her marriage. The intimate contact with Mug also affords the author, an elementary school teacher, new insight into becoming the person she truly wants to be.

This short memoir is simply written reading much like a letter to a friend. “That day, When (sic) I was driving to an undefined destination I didn’t know where I was. My brain was empty. So, I got on a strange road.” Nevertheless, the story conveys strong emotion in the sparest of words and likely expresses the feelings of many women from this author’s era and homeland who were expected to give their all to others with no opportunity to fulfill dreams of their own. As she laments in her own first chapter heading, “Who Am I?”

While the punctuation and paragraph structure is weak throughout (many paragraphs consist of a single sentence), the story holds its own. In the end, Jang finds her happiness while beginning to understand her husband’s inability to express his feelings. It’s an uncomplicated message, yet has universal appeal.

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