by Angela Mi Young Hur
Publication: April 27, 2021
**I was provided a copy of the book through NetGalley. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.**
Folklorn‘s description drew me in with the return of an imaginary friend and a mother’s warning that her daughter’s life was doomed to repeat the narratives of Korean myths. I narrowed in on the magical aspect of the novel rather than Elsa running away from and then dealing with her family. Because I was more intrigued by the magical aspect of the novel, I never quite felt like the book delivered what was promised. At the same time, Elsa’s past and present left me in a slightly numb state, uncertain of what I should be feeling. Ultimately, I am torn as to whether I liked Folklorn or not. I needed breaks throughout, but I also couldn’t stop myself from reading it. The experience is likely one I won’t forget.
The story is told in a nonlinear format. Elsa jumps between the past and present. Adding to this back and forth are what may or may not be hallucinations. It works in the book’s favor that the experience of reading it reflects what I believe is similar to Elsa’s state of mind. There are moments of clarity and I know exactly what is happening. At other times, things are hazy. How much time passed? Are we still in the present? Is this real? Additionally, I often questioned what or who I could trust. Throughout the book, I desperately wanted to parse out the pieces and reorder them, organize them so I could concentrate on each piece one at a time. I did not like feeling this way.
There were times I connected with Elsa and then there were times I did not. I understood her decision for leaving. I could see why physics was used as a blanket to hide from her family and her heritage, to hide from the memories and the ghosts haunting her. It was difficult to see her struggle as she tried to piece together who her mother was and to understand her broken family. I would have sympathy for her one moment, and then she would treat people in a way I didn’t like, leaving me disappointed in her. She was often a difficult character to discern.
If my thoughts seem a bit scattered, it’s because Folklorn is a book I’m still processing. If I reviewed it without the expectation of more magic and myths, I think I might have different things to say, but for now, it’s difficult to do that. It’s a book I feel I’m supposed to like, but I can’t bring myself to give it a better rating. I’m conflicted. This is a book I’ll come back to and wonder if I rated it accordingly. Sometimes I will think it deserves more, and other days, I will be confident I was right the first time around. I might event want to update this review at a later time, but for right now, I’m just not sure.