Yeon-Sik Hong's UNCOMFORTABLY HAPPILY
A book review by Dennis D. McDonald
A couple of struggling young artists, fed up with the noise and pollution of Seoul, move to the countryside. There they deal with poverty, poor heating, career troubles, transportation hassles, sickness, and their own personal demons. They also find beauty, nature, the joys of farming, and each other, along with cats, dogs, and the joys of swimming in clean mountain lakes.
As one grows older it is possible to overlook or even disguise the memories one has of what it was like to be young and starting out a life together. The author of this book is both honest and clear about both the good and the bad. How other readers will react to the sometimes mundane and just plain silly things that happen here will depend a lot on their own memories and attitudes about "the old days."
What makes this book come alive is not just the mix of characters and story but the wonderful artwork. The human figures at first seem cartoon-y but gradually display very complex feelings, emotions, and behaviors.
The level of detail is impressive. The sometimes delicate and spare -- even minimal -- black and white line drawings, especially when nature and the physical surroundings of the couple are portrayed, are remarkable evocative and realistic.
Which individual incidents stand out will depend on the reader's experience. For example, the couple's adventures with a charcoal burning stove during their first winter in the country reminded me of my own adventures with an in-home kerosene heater my wife and I bought to supplement heat in our old condo. How wonderful it was when we finally got it to work!
If you appreciate how simple pleasures can balance life's trials and tribulations you will enjoy this book.
Review copyright (c) 2018