What does a successful life look like? Is it when it’s fulfilling? Being happy? Making a lot of money? The debut novel by Hwang Bo-reum, “Welcome to Hyundamdong Bookshop,” portrays characters undergoing a slow and gradual process of uncovering the true definition of happiness, inviting us to reflect on what life can we truly feel successful with.

Photo of the cover of the book Welcome to the Hyunam-dong Bookshop in iBooks

Summary


In this book, we follow Yeongju, a woman in her late thirties, who decides to leave her high-flying career, divorce her husband, and start anew in the residential neighborhood of Hyunam-dong, where she builds her bookshop. This bookshop eventually becomes a haven for diverse characters who show us how happiness can look different for others.

Analysis


The key strength of this novel is its cozy atmosphere built on its unhurried pace consistent throughout the book and the rich, well-developed characters as they navigate their everyday lives in and out of the bookshop offering us a glimpse of what it would look like to work in a bookshop with a cozy vibe and freshly brewed coffee filling the entire space.

The plot progression was very committed to offering a relaxing book as there were anticlimactic, no certain parts that you might feel agitated when things are going wrong. This author may have meant for its readers to just enjoy the pleasure of reading and becoming a visitor to Hyundamdong bookshop.

The book tackles the theme of finding happiness and fulfillment, relevant to our contemporary society, where happiness is often tied to societal standards such as having a great career and making a lot of money, which may not always align with personal desires as we find Yeongju, who thought that her great career should have made her feel successful yet, she felt burnt out leading her to leave everything she had built for herself to find happiness.

From this book, we can somehow see the intersection of the idea of success equating to happiness, and once the reality hits that not often does success by societal standards give us happiness, there seems to be a lot of things to weigh in. This is especially hard to come to terms with when we built all our lives trying to attain success.

This theme permeates to other characters in the book as we are told the history of the characters and their struggles of finding their place in the world, we are offered different perspectives of what happiness or success looks like from characters of different ages, contexts, and phases of life.

This book delves into the workings and struggles of indie bookstores, which readers like me and you would appreciate, perhaps even inspiring a desire to open one. (I sure wanted one).

However, while the book is encouraging and hopeful about finding happiness and defining success on our terms, it’s important to acknowledge its idealistic nature. Not everyone has the privilege to simply leave everything behind like Yeongju due to various hindrances, including financial constraints. Our society is flawed and it won’t allow us to do that so easily.

Another aspect to note is the lack of distinctiveness in character dialogue. While the characters’ histories are thoroughly developed, the shifting of dialogues from Yeongju to other characters lacks distinction. Each character’s voice should be more pronounced, making it easier for us to identify who is speaking in each chapter.

Recommendation


This book will be appreciated by a lot of readers because of its cozy atmosphere. If you want to rest or enjoy a book without getting worked up, this can be it. Others may also find solace in this bo,ok, especially for those who are stuck working in jobs they don’t like. Bonus point if this can serve as a wake-up call for you to start taking action toward your dreams, to dream the impossible, to take the road fewer people have taken.

Final Thoughts


This is a nice book. The cozy vibe and the pace stand out from this book. However, it did fail in the writing style which is something you might become particular with if you read a lot of literary fiction. Despite that, this book is enjoyable, and relaxing, and would be talked about with smiles on their faces.

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