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Can't I Go Instead    by Lee Geum-yi order for
Can't I Go Instead
by Lee Geum-yi
Order:  USA  Can
Forge, 2023 (2023)
Hardcover, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Lee Geum-yi, author of The Picture Bride, now brings readers another Korean-American historical in Can't I Go Instead (translated by An Seonjae). It follows the early 20th century trials and tribulations of two young Korean women - Chaeryeong, spoiled daughter of Viscount Yun Hyeongman, and her maidservant Sunam.

When Chaeryeong is about to be arrested by the Japanese after being involved with a Korean Independence activist, her father seeks help from his employee, Junpei Terao. Junpei has been invited by his uncle to join him in Hawaii, and can take a wife. He will marry Chaeryeong, whom he loves but who loathes him. Meanwhile, Sunam takes her mistress's place in the Women Consolation Brigade for the Imperial Army.

Sunam is fortunate to receive special treatment because of her education, but soon realizes what's happening to her peers, and escapes. Many adventures follow for each woman, including internment for Chaeryeong (who had posed as Japanese to enter the U.S.) and university in New York for Sunam.

When World War II ends with Korea's liberation, both women make their way back to reclaim their identities and find new lives there - but their entanglement continues.

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