June, 2019 - Korea
You-jeong Jeong’s latest, Jini, Ginny, is a powerful novel that touches on environmentalism, human arrogance vis a vis the animal kingdom, and what it means to search for and fulfill a life’s purpose. The first non-thriller by the renowned crime novelist, this book is an exciting adventure with dashes of magical realism.
The book opens with Jini, a 34-year-old woman who is working on her PhD in primatology. She is in the Congo for research. She stumbles across a bonobo in illegal captivity, and though she knows what she should do, she ends up not doing anything; not reporting it, not telling anyone about it. This weighs on her heavily in the following half year or so, and she decides to leave her field. On her last day at work, the primate research center she works at gets a report that a bonobo is on the loose; she and her mentor go to help capture it, but get into a car accident on their way back.
When she comes to she realizes she's in the body of the bonobo, who she and her mentor have decided to call Ginny. The book alternates between her voice and the perspective of Minju, a thirty-year-old man who doesn't have a job or money or a purpose in life. He discovers the accident and calls 911.
Jini, in the body of Ginny, manages to convince Minju that she is Jini and the rest of the book follows their attempts to get to the hospital where Jini's body is in surgery so that she can return to her body. But the bonobo's consciousness takes over the animal’s body and Jini learns about the bonobo's past life. At the very end she realizes that the bonobo whose body she is occupying is the bonobo she failed to help in the Congo months ago. She wrestles with the fact that humans have been dominating and privileging themselves over animals and, knowing that her soul will die along with her severely damaged human body, returns to her original body, allowing the bonobo to return to its home in the Congo.
During this time, Minju finds purpose and risks everything to help Jini, making that human connection that he hasn't ever experienced; this incident forces him to grow up and find meaning again.
The characters are particularly well realized, with a strong, conflicted, and ultimately sacrificial woman at the center.
The Good Son
Title title change from Beautiful Demon
Author of international bestseller and critically acclaimed, Seven Years of Darkness, new #1 Korean bestseller, EunHaeng NaMu Publishing Co., Ltd./Korea (published as Origin of the Species in Korea) since May selling over 600,000 copies; think Stephen King meets Lionel Shriver. English partial, 399 pages. Sold to Penguin Books,US, Little Brown/UK & Commonwealth, Like/Finland, Unionsverlag/Germany, Picquier/France,Feltrinelli/Italy,Random/Spain.
EunHaenNaMu/Korea, #1 Bestseller in Korea. Little Brown/UK,Viking Penguin US – June 18. Unionsver lag,Germany Phi l ippe Picquier /France, Hayakawa/Japan,Dobrovsky/Czech,Todavia/Brazil.
A cool, crafty did-he-do-it thriller buoyed by a rising tide of madness. Provocative yetprofound, humming with mood and menace, The Good Son will rivet readers of Jo Nesbo and Patricia Highsmith.” –A. J. Finn, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Woman in the Window
“In Beautiful Demon, Jeong digs into the origin of evil with a psychopath as the main character – but her approach is far from simply projecting abstract guesses about what a psychopath must be like. What she employs instead is a scientific approach as she sharply examines the various components that interplay and build into the genesis of a psychopath.
Just as the topic of her previous novel ‘28’ was related to current issues – at the time, the spread of a virus in Korea and around the world – Jeong’s new novel is likewise purposefully reminiscent of the cold blooded crimes recently creating a stir in our society.
“I was worried that critics might say my book beautifies a villain,” said Jeong. Contrary to the author’s concerns, the prevailing response from readers is that though the story itself may have some uncomfortable moments, it is thought-provoking, leaving readers with deep philosophical implications to ponder over.
The uproarious response from readers moreover disproved earlier concerns that the novel may not receive as much attention due to its release date being so close to the day Han Kang received her Man Booker Award. Online book reviewers raved, “overpowering narration by Jeong,” “incredible, just as expected,” “it pulls you in,” and “novel that leaves you spellbound.”
– Esther J. Kim, KoreaBizWire.com
“Bestselling Korean author Jeong slowly winds readers up with taut, high-tension wire, slowly letting it play out as the police inevitably come calling and Yu-jin begins to uncover shocking secrets about himself, his mother, and his past. A creepy, insidious, blood-drenched tale in which nothing is quite what it seems.” - Kirkus
A young man desperately tries to fill in gaps in his memory when he realizes he may have brutally murdered his own mother. Twenty-five-year-old Yu-jin lives in a sparkling modern apartment with his mother, has an adopted brother with whom he's close, and he's waiting to hear if he's been accepted into law school. One morning, he wakes covered in blood, "clots of the stuff" hanging off his clothes. He follows the trail of gore to find his mother lying at the bottom of the stairs with her throat cut. He explores the house, hoping for more clues as to what happened, and is surprised to find his late father's straight razor covered in blood in his room. Could he have killed his own mother? It sure seems that way, even if he can't remember doing it, and the fact that he hasn't been taking his anti-seizure medication doesn't help. Yu-jin narrates, telling a compelling, disturbing tale as he tries to piece together the events that might have led to his mother's death. Yu-jin's mom may not have had his best interests at heart. She made his stop swimming competitively—the only thing he really loved—because she claimed to fear he'd have a seizure in the water, and she nags him incessantly, always insisting she know his whereabouts. After his brother and father died 16 years ago, she adopted Hae-jin and has favored him over Yu-jin since. Yu-jin even confesses to following young women around at night, noting that frightening them is an addiction that he must feed. When a woman's body washes up nearby, one can't help but suspect Yu-jin. He doesn't help his case by admitting that he lies often. Pressure steadily mounts as Yu-jin's world, and mind, unravels. Bestselling Korean author Jeong slowly winds readers up with taut, high-tension wire, slowly letting it play out as the police inevitably come calling and Yu-jin begins to uncover shocking secrets about himself, his mother, and his past. A creepy, insidious, blood-drenched tale in which nothing is quite what it seems.
Eunhaengnamu Publishing, 496 pages, June 2013 publication, #1 bestseller with over 500,000 copies sold. Sold to Taiwan, China, Vietnam
A thrilling, multilayered tale of undying loyalty and unlikely kinship during uncertain times, 28 is the explosive new bestseller by Jeong Yu-jeong, the celebrated Korean master of suspense. Injecting her trademark precision and complex, irresistible characters into this story of a city overtaken by a mysterious disease, Jung has crafted an intricate study of the true form human nature takes during disaster and the resulting anarchy.
This adrenaline-filled novel is written from the six characters’ intersecting points of view, a stark reminder that no event is ever clear-cut. Brimming with characters that are larger than life and embroidered with evocative meditations on humanity, 28 is a riveting ride of fear, despair, and the power of empathy. This blockbuster of a novel is reminiscent of the very best of Stephen King and is sure to be a worldwide sensation.
Seven Years of Darkness
Eunhaengnamu Books (2011- 523 pages)<Korea, sold over 600,000 copies.
The agony of being branded a murderer's son is beautifully captured, as is the complex psychology of the violent, narcissistic Yeong-je and the fierce love Hyeon-su has for his son. This is a chilling but lovely look into the strength and depth of fatherly love, both biological and adopted, and the ultimate triumph of love over hate. SEVEN YEARS OF DARKNESS follows the story of a young man (Seo-won) trying to figure out what happened one fateful night seven years ago, when his father opened the floodgates of a dam where he worked security and caused an entire village to disappear. Since his mother died in the flood and his father was put in prison for his crime, Seo-won had been adopted by Seung-hwan, an old co-worker of his father's, and led an itinerant life together; a few years after arriving in a new town, old newspaper articles about Seo-won's link to the mass murderer would be circulated, forcing them to move again. One day, Seung-hwan disappears, and Seo-won receives a package in the mail containing a manuscript describing what had happened; the novel switches back and forth between Seo-won in the present day and the manuscript that Seung-hwan had written.
The father, Hyeon-su, had a drinking problem, and one day he hits a young girl late at night as he is returning home. Panicked, he grabs the girl's body and throws it into the dam. The girl's father (Yeong-je) is a neighbor as well as a prominent citizen with a mean streak; a classic abuser, he had beaten his wife and his daughter, and when his wife ran away, managed to gain full custody of the girl. Because in prior cases when he beat his daughter, Seung-hwan had intervened, Yeong-je suspects Seung-hwan, but soon learns it must have been Hyeon-su who killed his daughter. Yeong-je manages to kidnap Seo-won and threatens to kill him for revenge, but as a last desperate attempt to save his son, Hyeon-su releases the water in the dam, destroying the village and killing hundreds of people. Seo-won is rescued by Seung-hwan, who manages to get to him in time. Although everyone believed Yeong-je had drowned in the flood, it becomes evident he hadn't; he had been meticulously stalking Seo-won and Seung-hwan, and is plotting to kill him. Although Seo-won is kidnapped by Yeong-je again to be killed, it turns out Hyeon-su had been figuring out the details of Yeong-je's plot and had entrusted Seung-hwan to carry out his plan to save Seo-won. However, by the time Seo-won is freed and Yeong-je is brought down, Hyeon-su has already been executed.