Human Acts by Han Kang

Human Acts

Author: Han Kang
Genre: Historical Fiction
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Hogarth
Release Date: January 17, 2017 (first published May 19, 2014)
Pages: 224

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Goodreads SynopsisIn the midst of a violent student uprising in South Korea, a young boy named Dong-ho is shockingly killed.

The story of this tragic episode unfolds in a sequence of interconnected chapters as the victims and the bereaved encounter suppression, denial, and the echoing agony of the massacre. From Dong-ho’s best friend who meets his own fateful end; to an editor struggling against censorship; to a prisoner and a factory worker, each suffering from traumatic memories; and to Dong-ho’s own grief-stricken mother; and through their collective heartbreak and acts of hope is the tale of a brutalized people in search of a voice.

An award-winning, controversial bestseller, Human Acts is a timeless, pointillist portrait of an historic event with reverberations still being felt today, by turns tracing the harsh reality of oppression and the resounding, extraordinary poetry of humanity.

Jen’s Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

REVIEW: Humans Acts is one of those books that make it hard to breathe. Traumatizing, painful, leaving your heart deeply saddened. Right from the beginning you are hit with a sea of emotions. You’re taken in through every harrowing moment these innocent souls had to endure. With a sight you wish you never have to live through. There is an aching in these pages, for a better tomorrow. To be part of a world that doesn’t live by hate, war, death, and hidden agendas.

“You walk farther into the auditorium, toward the row of seven corpses that have been laid out to one side. Whereas the others have their cloths pulled up only to their throats, almost as though they are sleeping, these are all fully covered. Their faces are revealed only occasionally, when someone comes looking for a young girl or a baby. The sight of them is too cruel to be inflicted otherwise.”

This is not for the faint of heart. The more pages you delve into, the more sorrow and heartache you experience. A boy searching for a friend he has lost, forever to be reminded of his gruesome end. Then to that friend who tells his story from outside of his body, no longer tethered to this realm, but unable to let go. And the pain intensifies as the reader continues down this path with Han Kang.

“… they stacked the bodies in a neat shape of a cross. Mine was second from the bottom, jammed in tight and crushed still flatter by every body that was piled on top. Even this pressure didn’t squeeze any more blood from my wounds, which could only mean that it had all leaked out already.”

The mind goes from shock, to horror, to despair. All at once the reader is bombarded with images of shattered dreams and hopeful pleas to forget. For all of the senseless acts of violence to come to an end. But it is persistent and disheartening. The thought will run through your mind, wishing you could immerse yourself within the pages, to stop their heartache, to magically find an end to all the horrid things occurring. And then realizing that this is a continuous way of life in so many parts of the world. It is agonizingly tragic.

If you pick up this book, beware the cruelty that will fill your mind, the stories of the many who were struck down for no reason, for wanting to get the truth out, for  trying to make a difference. Everything is shown on these lines that are this novel. But it also pushes the reader to question ones integrity, to see beyond the veil, to explore what we are becoming as a society. It’s captivating to the very end. And not just because of the disturbing telling, but because of the belief and hope that many held strong to even when spirits were being broken.

“Is it true that humans are fundamentally cruel? Is the experience of cruelty the only thing we share as a species? Is the dignity that we cling to nothing but self-delusion, masking from ourselves this single truth: that each one of us is capable of being reduced to an insect, a ravening beast, a lump of meat? To be degraded, damaged, slaughtered- is this the essential fate of humankind, one that history has confirmed as inevitable?”

***I received this copy from Penguin Random House/Crown Publishing  in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.***

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