I have started gardening seriously, which means that I need sunscreen, a floppy hat, garden tools, and audiobooks. For the last bit of cleaning up last year’s stalks and stems, I chose to listen to A Step from Heaven by An Na, a title that I found on CD in our young adult collection.
The first two or three chapters in A Step from Heaven puzzled me. A little girl in a foreign country described the everyday events of her life and introduced me to her family, but the only reference points that I could find to anchor the story in my mind were the Oriental accent of the reader Jina Oh and the illustrations on the audiobook case. In a later chapter I discovered that Young Ju was a Korean girl and her family had moved to America. In each subsequent chapter the narrator matured and told more about herself and her mother, father, and brother. Learning English, going to school, making friends, and dealing with parents who did not fit into the dominant society were Young Ju’s challenges. As she became a teen, her problems escalated, as her father did not adjust to American culture and became abusive. Just when I thought I knew the resolution of the story, it surprised me.
The book ends with an epilogue called “Hands” that is an essential piece for understanding the story. Do not be fooled into thinking it can be skipped because it is an epilogue. It is so well written that I listened to it twice.
I found an interesting interview with An Na, who admits that the beginning chapters (not the latter part of the book) are from her own memory of a childhood in Korea. Look for this author interview at http://www.cynthialeitichsmith.com/auth-illAnNa.htm.
Na, An. A Step from Heaven. Asheville, NC : Front Street, c2001. 1886910588
Unabridged CD edition. New York : Random House Audio Publishing Group ; Listening Library, p2002, c2001. 0807216127