Book Review: Persimmon

Special to The Recorder

“Persimmon” by Doc Pruyne (Mountain Springs House, 266 pages, $14.99)

The immigrant experience may be the quintessential American story. Doc Pruyne of Greenfield tells an immigrant tale with a mystical twist in “Persimmon.” This coming-of-age novel should find an audience with grown-up readers as well as young adults.

Kee-Yong and her family have recently moved from Korea to New York City, where like many Korean immigrants they operate a small grocery store that specializes in fresh produce and flowers. A martial-arts prodigy in her village back home, Kee was the first girl ever to study komdo, the “Way of the Dawning Sword.”

Her father, who suffers from strange spells that physically injure him, dislikes his teenage daughter’s spiritual connection to komdo. He has moved the entire family to New York to get Kee away from her komdo master and her studies.

As the book opens Kee feels desperately stifled working in her family’s shop and unable to study komdo. “Damp, dark, and small. This is my life,” she thinks. The bustle of New York with its millions of strangers distresses her. With the aid of a sympathetic aunt she finds a komdo master in the city and resumes her studies.

She quickly becomes aware of two boys in her komdo class who are attracted to her. One is a gentle soul whose smile comes to delight her. The other alternates between desiring Kee and envying her talent with the sword. Tensions mount both at home and in class, and Kee struggles to maintain her spiritual balance.

“Persimmon,” the first in a projected trilogy, is a fast-paced, well- structured tale that engages the reader in Kee’s life from the opening page. Her family feels real as does the tedium of keeping a grocery shop.

(I’ll never buy produce at a small market again without thinking about the work involved in keeping the fruits and vegetables beautiful.)

I found Kee’s love interest less riveting than the other characters. His main appeal to her for most of the book seems to be the quickness with which he falls in love with her. On the other hand, when one is 17 being loved can feel like a precious thing. Perhaps his sincere affection is all he needs to win her heart.

“Persimmon” as a whole works, however. Anyone who has ever been a teenager (which means anyone, period) will identify with Kee as she struggles to balance her obligation to family with her obligation to her own gifts — and to become the person she is destined to be.

Tinky Weisblat is the author of The Pudding Hollow Cookbook (www.merrylion.com) and Pulling Taffy (www.pullingtaffy.com). She is always looking for new books from Franklin County-related authors to review for this paper. If you have a book suggestion, email her at Tinky@merrylion.com.

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