Sybil Baker‘s dazzling third novel, Into This World, is a deeply moving tale of family, betrayal, misperceptions, and love lost and found. At the heart of the novel are sisters, Allison and Mina. At the opening, Allison is at a desperate crossroads, having just learned that her sister has betrayed her in what she believes is the worst way possible. As per usual, Mina, the wild child, is at the center of their parents’ thoughts as she has unexpectedly moved back to Korea and called them with a potentially upsetting revelation. With this, Allison dumps her old life and sets out for Seoul, seemingly in search of her sister.
What she finds instead is the truth of her family’s many secrets when she learns that they have all been living dual lives. In acting as the “puppetmaster” who brings all of the players to their final destination in a temple, Allison offers them all what they have been looking for, including her, and that is forgiveness and a second chance.
The third person point of view deftly switches amongst the many characters showing us their past and present with exquisite detail. I was especially touched by the empathy shown to Wayne, the dad, who set the whole tale in motion by making the decisions he made as a young GI in Korea:
Wayne ran out of the bar onto the street, crowded with soldiers he didn’t know. He hurried back to base, fell into his bunk, and wrote Bonnie a rambling letter of childhood longing, of how when he was a little boy, he’d watch the show of shadows play across his room, of how he was too terrified to sleep. Then he prayed to God and asked for strength and forgiveness, of which, he already feared, he would need much in the year to come.
Mina, too, captured my heart as seen as the young child torn from her life and moved to the United States. And then, of course, there is Allison who shows growth throughout ending, finally, in acceptance of her flaws and, more importantly, acceptance of the flaws of those around her:
Ever since she’d decided to come to Seoul, Allison told herself that all she wanted to know was the truth. She could not change what Wayne had done, what Mina had done, what Ray had done, but she could live out of the shadows, in the sun. Yet this was not the kind of truth she’d been expecting. She’d been searching to discover the lies others had told her, but not ones she’d told herself.
It’s a beautiful and beautifully drawn story and I will live in the world shown to me for days to come. I hope you will read it.