Book Of The Month: Almond by Won-pyung Sohn


Book Of The Month / Tuesday, June 30th, 2020

There are a lot of people who take pride in the number of books they read. They diligently set reading targets and knock off every book they read on Goodreads. I am not one of them. For a long time, I didn’t have Goodreads or Shelfari or any way of tracking the books I have read. I know that hundreds of my books are not accounted for on that platform. 

Many books, therefore, just sit in the forgotten bookshelves of my mind. But over these last few years, I have tried to be more mindful in my reading. I keep a spreadsheet that tracks all the genres I have read. It’s because of that I am able to venture into reading books that have garnered too little attention from my reading eye. 

It was thus I started to read South Korean translated fiction by women. I read Frances Cha’s riveting ‘If I Had Your Face’ in May. And then, I picked up ‘Almond’ by Won-pyung Sohn. ‘Almond’ is the sort of novel that might slip under your radar, but I am going to stick my reading neck far out and say this is already one of my best reads of this year. 

In its setting, it reminded me of ‘Flowers for Algernon.’ Told in the compelling voice of Yunjae, a boy of 15 who hasn’t been to ‘feel’ all his life, it’s the sort of story that you can read through fast, but then sit back at the end, and wonder if life has changed after that for you. 

Here’s the thing about me. I have been sometimes told I feel ‘too intensely.’ It’s told as an indictment. “Your intensity scares me,” is what I hear. So much so, I have often wondered if I should not feel. If that’s the better way to live. Reading ‘Almond’ told me that shouldn’t be the case. 

We feel. We live. I don’t want to be embarrassed about my intensity. What’s life without feeling? Where’s the magic in being deadwood, floating around without really feeding off all the myriad emotions we go through? We cut. We bleed. We throw our hearts down to uncaring people. We may lose ourselves in feeling too much. But, I have a feeling I won’t regret too much the feelings. I will regret the not-feeling.  

What this book taught me

It’s ok to feel. It’s ok to feel too much. There’s no such as ‘too much.’ 

Surround yourself with those who feel the way you do  – in the touch of a leaf, in the leaves of the heart, in the magic of the sky, in the kindness of their words, and more than anything, in the sweetness of their actions. It’s perhaps the only way to live. 

Find the people in your life who will take on a monster to keep you safe. Even if they are small and puny, their hearts are so big they can take on the biggest monster. For you. 

These people will want you in their life. Keep them safe. Keep them very safe. They are precious. 

Watch not what they say. It’s easy to say “I love you.” It’s tougher to put an arm around your shoulders when you have snot running down your chin. But these people? They will hug you with the snot and the mess. Despite it. Because of it. 

Watch what they do for you, hence. Watch what you FEEL like doing for them. And feel your way into all the clouds of emotions – may we feel all the colors of every single feeling and be grateful for those. 

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‘Almond’ was a touching story of love, friendship, of undeniable kindness, warmth, strange Korean drama too with an edgy, quirky feel. It made me feel undeniably loved. 

4 Replies to “Book Of The Month: Almond by Won-pyung Sohn”

  1. Reminds me of this–“The great art of life is sensation, to feel that we exist, even in pain.”
    Many a time, I have wished to numb the pain, or any other powerful emotion. I have thought that feeling is agony, and that it would be good to be a little numb. But over the years, I have begun gravitating towards accepting emotions, in whatever hue they come, because as you eloquently say, there is no magic in being deadwood. We feel, therefore we live and not exist.

    I love that last paragraph where you talk about what this book taught you. That is life, isn’t it? Finding those few people who make it worth all the struggle. And yes, like your friend says, you are very fortunate to have more than one of those. 🙂

    1. That’s such a beautiful quote, Restless. I think, based on that, I have existed very well. ;-). I think our feelings are like clouds – they transform into rain, or just flutter away – and what is more beautiful than rain or a puff in the sky that disappears? And yes, I am blessed to have some people who truly deserve all the stars I can pluck from that sky – despite all the scars I have given them.

  2. What a way to look at Almond 🙂 I loved this book too. And you know Algernon is one of my favs. You are lucky to have more than one of those snot-hugging people in your life.

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