Excerpted from I'll Be Right There by Kyung-sook Shin. Copyright © 2014 by Kyung-sook Shin. Excerpted by permission of Other Press, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
1. Which two characters do you feel share the strongest bond with one another? Are there any two that have an especially powerful connection, and if so, what makes their connection more compelling?
2. Do you think that this book has an optimistic or a pessimistic view of friendship and first loves?
3. What role does memory play in I’ll Be Right There? What might Shin be looking to say about our relationship to it?
4. What role does Professor Yoon play in everyone’s lives, and why is his death so significant? What does he “teach” Jung, Myungush, and Miru? Have you experienced a similar connection to a professor?
5. The characters in I’ll Be Right There are continually confronted by the impermanence of life and the pain of losing what is closest to them. What effect might this have on them both personally and politically?
6. What are Shin’s strengths and weaknesses as a writer? Do you prefer her narrative construction, her characters, her prose style, or some other aspect of her writing? Is she comparable to any other writers stylistically?
7. When Yoon observes Dahn’s equal fascination and fear of spiders, she wonders if love and fear share the same root. Are there other instances in the book when someone both loves and fears something?
8. The book contains many allusions to other writers, including Emily Dickinson. What do you think this book is trying to say about the use of art and literature in the face of politics and violence, and the power of literature as a link between people?
9. At one point, Myungush wonders “What would have happened to us if it weren’t for Yoon?” Why does Yoon becomes so integral to the relationship between Miru and Myungush?
10. Why doesn’t Yoon speak to Myungsuh about Dahn’s death? What are other instances in this book when someone keeps a secret, and why do you think they do so?
11. What does this novel teach us about the ways in which we can better cope with loss and grief in our own lives?