Chang-Rae Lee has written a very ambitious fourth novel with The Surrendered. It travels back and forth through time from Korea to New Jersey to Manchuria and Italy. The story begins with June Han, a Korean orphan trying to survive a trek to safe ground. Young GI Hector Brennan finds her on the road and brings her to an orphanage where the meet Sylvie Tanner, a missionary wife. There the pair vie for her attention. At least that’s where it seems to begin at first, but Lee also brings us to the point where June is orphaned; why Hector joined the military trying to escape the death of his father; what brought Sylvie Tanner to Korea. And it will suddenly move forward to Hector and June’s lives after the war.
The death of parents scarred June, Hector, and Sylvie. The repercussions of their deaths cause ripples of grief through all of them. Lee has written a very powerful novel about not just how awful war can be, but how love can be damaging as well as uplifting. He offersÂ no easy endings or heartwarming coming-together,Â instead bringingÂ to life aÂ powerful, unpredictable,Â and occasionally painful story.