Published: 21st May, 2018
Publisher: Beaten Track
ISBN: Paperback: 978-1-78645-203-0
Genre: LGBT, History, Romance and Relationships, Contemporary Fiction, Family and Friendship
Martin is eighty-four years old, a Korean War veteran, living quietly in a retirement home in upstate New York. His days are ruled by the routine of the staff, but in his thoughts and dreams, Martin often returns to the Seoul of his youth, and the lost true love of his life. Two close friends urge him to travel back to search for his love. What awaits Martin in Korea, more than six decades after he left the country on a troop transport back to the U.S.?
Returning to the Land of the Morning Calm is a story of friendship, love and family, in all its many shapes, across time, generations and cultures.
I recall reading somewhere (in Hans's newsletter, I think) that Returning to the Land of the Morning Calm originally started life as a short story about Martin - the octogenarian main character - and I can see why that simply wouldn't have been enough to do justice to this character's journey, nor to take us on that journey with him, from the USA to South Korea, twice in a lifetime.
It's the closest I'm getting to visiting Seoul, and that's OK. As is always true with this author's stories, I learn so much about cultures I've never (nor, likely, will ever) come into contact with. From the round-the-world tour in The Fallen Angels of Karnataka, to a trip to the northernmost reaches of Sweden in Last Winter's Snow, Hans takes us to incredible places, and is thankfully endowed with the talent to depict those locations, the people, the food, the smells, the sounds...in literary form.
So there's the location and cultural elements, a rich context that is both backdrop and foreground to Martin's 'love story' - his love of Korea, its cities, people and food - and his love of Ji-Hoon, told through retrospective chapters interspersed with Martin's present-day situation as what my (82-year-old) mother-in-law calls 'an elderly' in a retirement home. While Martin seems happy to spend the rest of his days looking at the same four walls, his new friends have other ideas. Not content with sharing Martin's experiences vicariously, they somehow persuade him to take the trip back to Seoul, which is astounding, now I think about it, because Martin's set in his ways and doesn't shy away from telling people (nurses included) what he does and does not want to do...which leads me to conclude that perhaps he'd spent a fair bit of the sixty years since he left Seoul wishing he could go back.
Yes, I'm still thinking about the story now, three weeks after it was released and at least a month since I read it (I love that part of my job - reading the final story before it flaps its wings and takes flight for the first time). This is a novel that will appeal to many different readers - those who enjoy travel, those who appreciate a love story, those who appreciate well-researched settings - in other words, a story pretty much everyone will enjoy.
Returning to the Land of the Morning Calm is a novel by Hans M Hirschi, available in paperback and ebook formats.
About the Author:
|Photo: John O’Leary|
Hans M Hirschi has been writing stories since childhood. As an adult, the demands of corporate life put an end to his fiction for more than twenty years. A global executive in training, he has traveled the world and published several non-fiction titles as well as four well-received novels. The birth of his son provided him with the opportunity to rekindle his love of creative writing, where he expresses his deep passion for a better world through love and tolerance. Hans lives with his husband and son on a small island off the west coast of Sweden.
Blog: Hans Hirschi's Blog