Sunday, April 29, 2007

'Comfort Woman'

by Nora Okja Keller

Fiction/Historical, Copyright 1997
Penguin paperback, 213 p

(Book #14 for 2007)
Comfort Woman is the story of Akiko, a Korean refugee of World War II, and Beccah, her daughter by an American missionary. The two women are living on the edge of society – and sanity – in Honolulu, haunted by Akiko’s periodic encounters with the spirits of the dead, and by Beccah’s struggles to reclaim her mother from her past. Slowly and painfully Akiko reveals her tragic story as a “comfort woman” to Japanese soldiers. As Beccah uncovers these truths, she discovers her own strength and the precious gifts her mother has given her.
I think I would’ve preferred more factual information about the lives of comfort women, spending more time on what happened to Akiko during the war and being forced into such a tragic situation, instead of focusing on her fighting off her ghosts and demons. The mysticism and shamanism lost me a bit and made the story a bit far-fetched, for me at least. (No doubt my own fault but I can’t help it). I thought the daughter’s angst was well portrayed though; I could completely understand her difficulty in accepting her Korean heritage, and her mother’s often bizarre behaviour. The interweaving of the two voices, Beccah and her mother, was at times a little confusing, especially when Akiko referred to her mother, in fact Beccah’s grandmother. And it just seemed a bit disjointed at times which all distracted me a bit from the supposed “heartwrenching and enthralling tale” that it’s billed as (on the back cover). All in all a grim, important subject that I’d be interested in reading more on, but unfortunately this particular way of telling it didn’t really engage me as a reader.

My Rating: 2.5/5

Interview with Nora Okja Keller HERE.
Reading Matters book group discussion HERE.


  1. It's nice to read a review every once in awhile that doesn't 'force' me to add the book to my TBR list. Sorry it wasn't more enjoyable for you.

  2. I tried to get into this book and just couldn't. So I'm glad to hear it wasn't just me who found it hard to connect with. I didn't mind the different viewpoints but I agree, the mysticism didn't feel right in this book.

  3. booklogged,
    LOL! Glad I could help! :P

    Personally I don't think you missed much. Oh well. At least it wasn't terribly long.


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