The Surrendered (Paperback)

By Chang-Rae Lee

Riverhead Books, 9781594485015, 484pp.

Publication Date: March 1, 2011

March 2010 Indie Next List

“Events of the Korean War slams into a young girl, a GI, and the wife of a missionary with a tragic ferocity, and their lives will intersect in Korea, changing them forever. Epic in its scope and beautifully written, ^The Surrendered^ begins in Korea and then moves to Manchuria, New Jersey, and Italy. What makes us who we are? Can cataclysmic events alter our sense of self beyond redemption? A powerful novel.”
— Deon Stonehouse, Sunriver Books, Sunriver, OR
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Description

Chang-rae Lee, the bestselling and award-winning author of Native Speaker, A Gesture Life, and Aloft returns with his most ambitious novel yet-a spellbinding story of how love and war echo through an entire lifetime.
June Han was orphaned as a girl by the Korean War. Hector Brennan was a young GI who fled the petty tragedies of his small town to serve his country. When the war ended, their lives collided at a Korean orphanage, where they vied for the attention of Sylvie Tanner, a beautiful yet deeply damaged missionary.
As Lee masterfully unfurls the stunning story of June, Hector, and Sylvie, he weaves a profound meditation on the nature of heroism and sacrifice, the power of love, and the possibilities for mercy, salvation, and surrendering oneself to another.


About the Author

Chang-rae Lee is the author of Native Speaker, winner of the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award for first fiction, A Gesture Life, and Aloft. Selected by The New Yorker as one of the twenty best writers under forty, Chang-rae Lee teaches writing at Princeton University.


Conversation Starters from ReadingGroupChoices.com

  1. In the orphanage, June is a bully to the other children and shows affection only to Sylvie. Yet when we first meet her, she is incredibly caring to her sister and brother. What do you think caused this change in her personality? How did her experiences as a young girl shape the adult she became?
  2. Hector seems to develop true feelings for Dora. If things had ended differently in the final scene with Dora, do you think he would still have gone off with June? Why or why not? Do you think his experience with Sylvie colored his relationship with Dora? How?
  3. Do you think Sylvie and Tanner would have adopted June had things not happened the way they did turned out differently? Why or why not?
  4. June seems fixated on finding Nicholas even after it becomes clear that he is not who he says he is. Why do you think she is so focused? Why do you think she needs to find him?
  5. If you’ve read Chang-rae Lee’s work in the past, you know that he writes often of identity. How do these themes play out in The Surrendered? Of Hector, June, and Sylvie, which character do you think has the strongest sense of identity? The weakest?
  6. Each character undergoes a traumatic experience that ends up shaping the course of his or her life: Hector’s father’s death, June’s loss of her family, and Sylvie’s experience in Manchuria. How do these events change their characters? Do you think each person’s life would be different had these traumatic events not occurred?
  7. The book A Memory of Solferino recurs throughout the novel and is passed from Sylvie to June to Nicholas. What do you think the book means to each character and how does it influence the choices they make?
  8. Although The Surrendered is very much about war, the events of the Korean War itself make up a very small part of the book. Why do you think the author chose this approach? What point do you think he was making? How does this relate to his choice of title?
  9. Discuss the idea of mercy in the book. Which characters do you think most exemplify this trait? In which scenes does the idea of mercy seem to be the guiding force?
  10. Hector is born in the town of Ilion and is named after Hector in the Iliad. Discuss heroism in the book. Are any of the characters heroes? Do they behave heroically?
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