SOS Book Club Pick: Almond: A Novel

April’s Book Club Pick, “Almond: A Novel,” is a coming of age story about Yunjae, a young boy with Alexithymia, who struggles to feel pain, anger, and empathy. Hugely popular among BTS fans, as RM, J-Hope, and Suga read it in 2020 in their reality show “BTS In the Soop.” So, let’s dig into this story focusing on themes of acceptance, love, and human connection.

About the South of Seoul Book Club

If you are familiar with the series, skip ahead to learn more about “Almond: A Novel.”

Looking for book recommendations? Welcome to the South of Seoul book club. We recommend a book every month. Such recommended books explore topics like 1) South Korean history or culture, 2) the complexity of cross-cultural life, 4) the exploration of life within the diaspora experience, and 5) lenses on Korean culture around the world.

Commitment to Accessibility

South of Seoul volunteers take book accessibility into consideration when recommending titles. We consider:

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  • Purchasable in English In Korea: Many translated titles can’t actually be purchased in English in Korea,
  • Audio Version Available: Many people find audiobooks easier to consume.
  • Online Versions.: International residents can’t afford to travel with many books. Also, many books may not be available in digital form from within Korea.

Commitment to Diverse Lived Experiences

South of Seoul volunteers seek to put lived experiences at the forefront of their recommendation choices. When considering authors we look for such things as:

  • Korean authors who write based on their lived experiences in Korea.
  • International residents who write based on their lived experiences in South Korea.
  • Ethnic Koreans who write based on their lived experience in other countries.

Reading about Korean culture from a variety of perspectives may provide readers with a greater understanding of the country and culture.

Commitment to Supporting Mental Health

South of Seoul also includes book recommendations that support the lives and mental health of our community. This means that books may tackle the issues relationships, and more.

Book Recommendation By Melissa Edwards-Whittington

April’s South of Seoul Book Club recommendation, “Almond: A Novel” is brought to you by Melissa Edwards-Whittington of the KimchiRednecks. Edwards-Whittington has lived in Korea since 2017. She and her husband, Chuck, formed the KimchiRednecks YouTube channel to give people living outside of Korea or those coming to Korea, a glimpse of life here in Korea. Together with their three shih tzus, they post weekly videos about places to eat, things to cook, places to visit, or life in general living in Korea.

almond: a novel

About The Author of “Almond: A Novel”

The author of “Almond: A Novel” is Sohn Won-Pyung, a South Korean author, screenwriter, and filmmaker. Born in Seoul in 1979, she earned her Bachelor of Arts in social studies and philosophy at Sogang University and in film directing at Korean Academy of Film Arts.

“Almond: A Novel,” her debut full-length novel, won the Changbi Prize for Young Adult Fiction in 2016. Also, in 2020, she won the Japanese Booksellers’ Award in translated fiction for the same work. In addition, she wrote and directed the Korean film, “Intruder” (침입자) in 2020.

Interview with Writer Sohn Won-Pyung

Almond To Be Made Into A Musical

almond: a novel

My Experience Reading “Almond: A Novel”

The prologue puts it best, “I won’t tell you whether it has a happy ending or a tragic ending…neither you nor I nor anyone can ever really know whether a story is happy or tragic.” The story is about protagonist Yunjae, who suffers from alexithymia. Because of this disorder, part of his brain that controls feelings never fully formed, so he can’t feel any emotions. Due to this particular part of the brain being shaped like almonds, the author chose to use it for the name of the book.

Often labeled as a “monster” by his classmates, he struggles to understand why people feel that way. However, his grandmother and mother try to help Yunjae learn to manage and deal with his disorder in a world that does not understand him. They leave little post-it notes with reminders to smile, laugh, or say thank you.

Unfortunately, tragedy strikes when he is 16 when Yunjae’s mother and grandmother die. Therefore, he struggles and then, befriends the landlord of his family’s bookstore, Dr. Shim. Eventually, he meets fellow students, Gon and Dora. Through the relationships he builds with Dr. Shim, Gon, and Dora, he grows as a person and perseveres in spite of his condition. Although filled with moments of happiness and sadness, the story leaves you with a lot of meaningful life lessons.

More Commentary And Reviews On “Almond: A Novel”

The above review contains my thoughts and opinions. However, make sure to read other reviews to have a more rounded perspective toward the book. We all come to each story with our own social/cultural lens. Therefore, others may have perceived this book in a different manner and may help you decide if this is the book for you.

Brief Introduction to Almond by Won-Pyung Sohn

Almond by Won-Pyung Sohn

You can purchase “Almond: A Novel” by Sohn Won-Pyung in English on Amazon.

kim jiyoung

Find More Book Club Recommendations

Find More Book Club Recommendations

Did you like this recommendation? Be sure to explore our other volunteer-recommended books.

Also, check out the selections from South of Seoul Book Club 2023.