We are thrilled to introduce a brilliant debut novel by Sohn Won-pyung -- ALMOND
Like CATCHER IN THE RYE or EAST OF EDEN of their times, I think ALMOND speaks to our times ; a time when we are so bombarded with social media and information that feeling numb is the norm. This unique coming-of-age story is about a boy without emotions but who, nonetheless, through motherly and grandmotherly love, practice, diligence and persistence, learns how to become ever so humane with more guts and bravery than we could imagine. A boy born with a condition where he cannot feel emotions, Yunjae has trouble feeling emotions because of his naturally small amygdalae, also called the almonds. He cannot even feel fear or anger. He is cared for by his young single mother who has struggled financially but is making a go of it by opening her own second hand bookstore, and his steely strong grandmother, who has has accepted her wayward daughter and baby despite past argument and is as devoted and loving as any grandmother could be. Grandmother and mother drill into him pointers for socially appropriate responses such as laughing when others do so and saying, “Thank you” when others do. They leave post-it notes everywhere to remind him of what normal human responses are and how to act. They just want him to fit in and be accepted. They worry about how he will manage in the world. But, thanks to their devoted love, he manages to grow without causing much trouble. But on his sixteenth birthday, Christmas Eve, he loses them to a shocking, random act of violence. “Why did he kill my family, why?” Yunjae tries to find answers to the tragedy but to no avail. He is left alone in the world, until one day troubled 17 year old Gon appears in his life. Gon lost his family in the crowd when he was young, leading him to wander from one shelter after another ever since. He is reunited with his family after thirteen years, but he has become a troublemaker full of rage. Gon vents his anger on Yunjae only to be stumped by the emotionless reaction. To Yunjae, Gon sparks his curiosity rather than hatred. Yunjae thinks if he gets to know Gon who is full of strong emotions, he could somehow learn emotions himself. And so, the two develop an unlikely friendship that no one can understand. As Yunjae meets and interacts with different individuals such as his neighbor Dr. Shim and his classmate Dora, something slowly changes in him… and when Gon’s life is at risk, it is Yunjae who steps outside every comfort zone and way of being he has lived before, to become a most unlikely hero.