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Review of The Liberators by E.J. Koh

This book presents an intergenerational family story at key points in Korean history. We initially meet young couple Insuk and Sungho, with Sungho moving to America in order to build their family a life. We observe the story from the perspectives of Sungho and Insuk, as well as Insuk’s father, Sungho’s mother, a coroner, a prison guard, and even a dog! The multiple angles and multiple plotlines is one of the most effective parts of this book’s storytelling. I liked how an idea introduced in one chapter would then be the key crux of the narrative in the following chapter.

That being said, I did find the plot hard to follow at times. The writing style is minimal, using words sparingly to maximise impact which I did like; however, I do think a few more descriptive passages would have helped me stay better connected to the characters and the narrative.

This is a unique debut, one which really helped me gain an understanding of Korean history from a non-Western perspective. Koh offers a fascinating historical and present-day window into Korean life and I look forward to seeing what she does next!

The Liberators was published on 7/11/23 by Tin House Books.

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