A Step From Heaven by An Na

February 13, 2011
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For An Na, this is her first novel ever written. She brings you a story packed with hope and bravery coming from a naïve member of the Park Family, Young Ju. Know what it feels like to be in this young girl’s shoes as she experiences the hardships in being part of the family who just migrated to the United States of America. First set in South Korea, during the 21st century, is the homeland of Young Ju and the Park Family before migrating. As you turn the pages, unravel the answers to the questions in young life of Young Ju. Learn more about this inspiring read by this bookworm and young author, An Na.

This fictional story was able to express the deepest emotions of Young Ju from her thoughts to her words and actions. Relate with the hardships of Young Ju as she withstands jealousy, abuse, and high hopes even as a young girl. New immigrants would also be able to relate as cultures clash in order to fit in and be accepted by a particular kind of society. The story was also filled with the very deep emotion of loneliness of Apa, which explains why he abused physically his family.

The story is narrated through the eyes of growing Park Young Ju. She is a very naïve and inquisitive young girl. Although, she was born to have a brave heart just like her father, Apa. She may be abused by her father many times but that did not stop her to take the risk to save her family. She’s filled with high hopes as she believes that Mi Gook is actually Heaven. But reality struck her to believe that it is not. She has a younger brother named Park Joon Ho who was born in America. He was quite rebellious when his father started abusing their family. Aside from them, Uhmma, their mother was quiet but was strong in her faith and faithful as a wife and mother as well. She sacrificed to save her children from harm even if it meant getting physically abused by Apa, her husband. Apa, only wanted what is best for his family. Sadly, he felt he wasn’t good enough since Uhmma always demanded for more. After the tragic even of Halmoni passing away, this led Apa to become a heavy drinker and to abuse his family especially Young Ju and Uhmma through words and actions. Other characters such as Uncle Tim, Amanda, and such others, aided in becoming full supporters to Young Ju and Uhmma versus Apa.

At the young age of four, the family of Young Ju moved to Mi Gook to earn more money and to have a better education for a bright future for Young Ju and for their soon to be son. For Young Ju, she expected Mi Gook to be “Heaven” – like paradise. But when they settled in Mi Gook or the so called United States of America, she then realizes that she had her hopes too high. In America, her brother Park Joon Ho was born. At first, Young Ju would always be green with envy since she would feel like she was treated unequally by everyone from her parents to her relatives like Uncle Tim. Fortunately, in school, she met a friend stayed by her side through thick or thin. And she was Amanda Doyle. Though she was American, she was kind and treated Young Ju as her best friend. But unfortunately, Apa would disapprove Amanda since he believes that she is a bad influence to her as a Korean.

One tragic day, the Park family received news from Korea. They found out that Halmoni passed away at the young age of seventy plus. Feeling devastated, Apa became more abusive to his children than before. The loneliness filled his heart though it was empty from love. He couldn’t accept what a foolish child he is for not visiting her in Korea. And because of this, more tragic events followed. He became a hard drinker and abused Young Ju and Uhmma all the time. He would usually go home later and look wasted. But all of these ceased during one incident when both Young Ju ang Uhmma were being abused. While Uhmma tried to protect her child from the very cruel hearted Apa, Young Ju bravely called for assistance on the phone using 911.

A few years later, the Park family has moved on to begin a fresh new chapter in their lives without Apa. Uhmma, Young Ju, and Joon Ho lived peacefully in a decent home where love is always present. At the same time, Young Ju received a scholarship which made everything easier for Uhmma. While they were fixing, You Ju saw a box and gave it to Uhmma. The box was filled with photographic memories. One photograph was given to Young Ju to remind her that she came from a family of dreamers and to remind her to be brave just like her father, Apa.

The story revolves around Mi Gook or America where the Park family moved in order to have bright futures for each and everyone. However, it first settled in South Korea where the Park family lived. In some chapters, the story was also settled in places like the library, the school, the home rented by the Park Family, the beach, the airport, the Church, and also the restaurant where Uhmma worked.

The story engages the reader to have a brave heart and to sacrifice just like Young Ju despite the problems they face. It enlightens the youth to stand up for what they believe in but to also be filled with hope. But at the same time, let this hope not to be exaggerated just like Young Ju when she first believed that Mi Gook was actually “Heaven”. It sure teaches the reader to take risks or to simply sacrifice for the good and safety of their loved ones. This story by An Na is highly recommended to anyone who wishes to be inspired and enlightened to be brave and be a dreamer just like Young Ju. This story best fits teenagers who have migrated to another country or to simply those who want to understand how difficult life can be but at the same time, hope and bravery brings us a step closer to heaven.

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