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Reviewed by:
  • Brother's Keeper by Julie Lee
  • Elizabeth Bush

Lee, Julie Brother's Keeper. Holiday House, 2020 [304p] Trade ed. ISBN 9780823444946 $17.99 E-book ed. ISBN 9780823448098 $10.99 Reviewed from galleys R Gr. 5-8

A brief lull in the fighting gives the Pak family just enough time to take friends' advice and flee from North Korea to the South, where an uncle in Busan can offer them shelter. Separated from their parents in a bombing attack targeting escaping refugees, Sora and her younger brother, Youngsoo, forge on alone, clinging to the hope that the family will reunite in Busan. Sora keeps up her flagging determination, pulled by a vague hope that freedom in the South will mean continuing her education, and pushed by the need to deliver her rapidly weakening brother to safety. The martial and political conflict in 1950 Korea is catalyst and backdrop, and the story of the Pak children's treacherous flight is compelling. The underlying domestic struggle between Sora and her parents carries equal weight, though. The reunion in Busan, which should be a joyous event, is clouded by Sora's realization that her other family members had easier travels and don't empathize with her travails, that she is valued mainly for having worked to safeguard the family's eldest son, and that adults insinuate that some degree of blame for Youngsoo's fate might be attributable to Sora's negligence. Lee, who bases her novel on historical research and her mother's personal experiences, offers a measure of hope as Sora does, in fact, resume her schooling, but the emotional toll of Sora's undertaking lingers after her physical safety is secured. An author note, family photographs, and glossary are appended; a timeline will be included in the final copy. [End Page 483]



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