Cover Image: The Picture Bride

The Picture Bride

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Member Reviews

Overall, I felt that The Picture Bride was a fascinating story. I was intrigued by the history of women brought to Hawaii as brides for the Korean (and Japanese) men working plantations there in the early 1900s. I can't imagine the kind of courage required to set out on such a journey in that era. As I read about Willow, and her friends Hongju and Songhwa I just couldn't imagine myself in their shoes! 

Which leads me to the fact that this book was a bit boring at times. Though it is a novel, there was a good bit of straight-up history. It was hard to keep the emotional connection with the characters where there are multiple pages in a row of Korean history (that was honestly a bit hard to follow since it was interspersed with story). I think that the translation of this novel didn't help matters either. 

Overall, this book was just okay. I really liked the ending though I would have liked to know even more about Pearl! 

Thank you to NetGalley, the author, and the publisher for this eARC. All opinions are my own.
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This book really just took me for a ride. I loved the build up, the character development, and the writing. I would definitely read more from this author!
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I was granted free access to an uncorrected proof in exchange for an honest review.
My thanks go out to the publisher and to Netgalley for the early access.

I definitely had an OK time with this one and would recommend for anyone looking to read more about Korean history, specifically the time period in which Korea was under Japanese rule. 
This book looked at Korean picture brides which are basically women who enter into a marriage agreement based on solely a picture and the information given to them by a matchmaker. The women enter into these arrangements in hopes of living a better life far away from home, but would often arrive at their destination and realise that their husbands look nothing like the portrait that they previously shared.
I knew nothing about picture brides or about the mass migration of Koreans, Japanese & other nationalities to Hawai'i. And thus it was an interesting page in history to read about.
Another reason to pick up this book would be if you enjoy reading about those who are left behind when men go off to war. our protagonist definitely is a woman who often has to keep the household afloat while her husband is involved in the revolution, or later the war.

However, in terms of the writing itself, the structure or the overall plot, there is nothing that really stood out to me. It made me aware of a reality and a page in history that I didn't really know about. But as a piece of art, it didn't do much for me.
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I received an e-galley of The Picture Bride by Lee Geum-yi from Macmillan-Tor/Forge via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I love stories that are set in a historical timeframe - allowing readers to learn about a particular history - while also invoking a great sense of storytelling that focuses on the personal stories of the time. In The Picture Bride, readers are brought into the period of time when Japan had colonized Korea and thus our story starts with the young Korean woman, Willow, who chooses to leave her home country for what is promised to be a better future in faraway Hawaii. She becomes one of many picture brides at this time - choosing a husband through a picture from a matchmaker - and not meeting said husband until she makes her long journey across the ocean. When she arrives in Hawaii, she finds that the promises made of this new life are not quite as she was promised - but her tenacity and determination to make the best of the situation creates a story of strength, hope, and friendship.
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Long before the days of internet dating and swiping left or right on Tinder, young Korean girls were chosen as brides for Korean immigrants in Hawaii, based on their picture.  The men, in return, sent pictures of themselves, and a match was made.  But what the girls were promised - a new life, an opportunity to go to school, shoes and clothes growing on trees - was far from the reality when they arrived.  
Though I have often heard of the "mail-order wives" of mid-Western farmers, I had never heard of the picture brides.  It was a fascinating look at the lives of the immigrants who came to Hawaii to work, and the young women who joined them there.

Thanks to Macmillan-Tor/Forge and NetGalley for an advanced copy.
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Thank you so much to NetGalley and MacMillan Tor/Forge for my copy of The Picture Bride by Lee Geum-yi in exchange for an honest review. It published October 11, 2022.
This book was so fascinating to me. I haven't come across any literature about the topic of Picture Brides before, especially regarding Koreans immigrating to Hawaii. I also have not come across a lot of literature about the Japanese, Korean conflict in the 1910's and on. I found this book to be very informative and a good educator. On top of that, it was well-written, interesting, and I was glad to be on the journey.
It definitely opened my eyes to some history I didn't know much about and plan to learn more about it the future.
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The Picture Bride tells us about a very interesting part of the history of Hawaii.  Many men went to Hawaii to earn a living working in the sugar cane industry.  Once the men were able to save up enough money, they sent it back home in order to get a bride.  These men would often times send a picture of themselves in order to convince a young woman to choose them. The pictures were not always accurate and many young women were affected by this. This is part of our history, whether we live in Hawaii or not.  The research was done very well.  I loved the history and the story, but there were too many names and words in general that made the reading a little harder.  I am very glad I read this, next time I would write the unfamiliar names and words down.  

This is my review and I thank NetGalley and McMillan-Tor/Forge for an ARC.
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Willow if one of many Korean women who travels to the United States in search of love and a better life. Driven by a picture of an eligible husband, these women are known as "Picture Brides" because the only thing they truly know is from a picture sent by the suitor. But upon arrival to Hawaii, promises made are not always kept or true. 

This is an excellent novel that shows so much history of Korean-Americans who moved to the United States in the early 20th century looking for a better life.

#ThePictureBride #NetGalley #historicalfiction #koreanamericanhistory #koreanamerican #picturebrides
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Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for this eARC in exchange for an honest review.

The premise of this book is interesting, and something that I am unfamiliar with. Brides who are contracted to marry literal strangers who they have only "met"  through pictures and profiles - which might not be even updated or entirely truthful. 

The research that goes into this kind of story must be extremely detailed. 

Thank you for bringing light to parts of history such as this.
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Absolutely loved this. One of my favorite books of the year. I live in Hawaii (Maui) and have read several books about Hawaii's Picture Brides and this ranks right up there as one of my favorites. I was surprised to realize it was not originally written in English, but this was a translation of the original - beautiful translation. I alternated between reading the e-book and listening to the audiobook, and it was a seamless transition. The narrator of the audiobook was fantastic and she continued to narrate in my head when I would switch to the e-book. The characters were well-developed and came alive through the author's voice. The story was obviously well-researched and true to the history of Hawaii's immigrant families. Many people who live in Hawaii today - my friends and neighbors - are the children and grandchildren of these Picture Bride marriages and Hawaii's economy was built on their backs. I highly recommend this book to any fan of historical fiction, Hawaiian history, immigrant history, or just good literature. 5-stars
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I loved the premise of this book. Having always been interested in history of any kind, I find reading about the times in stories helps me understand. Here, I got a better idea of life in Korea at that time, how immigrants felt, life on Hawaii, and the community over all. I respect the fact that ample time was given to the political divide between Korean immigrants, and that they talked about both parties. More than any of this though, I wanted to know how the brides felt, how they adapted. I loved reading about Willow, Hongu and Songwa. This story really brought their community, dreams and fears alive for me. The story had a good flow to it, and was easy to follow. Coming into this book knowing almost nothing about picture brides, I feel like the historically accurate parts here gave me a good understanding of the time.

Being able to spend time hearing about the first immigrants of the Hawaiian community that moved down, straight through to the generation after Willow, was really interesting. I couldn’t put it down! Lovers of asian literature and culture will find a lot to love here as well as the historical fiction addicts.

I feel like I saw a good amount of character growth from each of the brides, and watching them grow stronger with their trials made me happy. Honestly, I got a lot of emotions here- anger, sympathy, sadness, and joy. I feel like the writer did a great job of making Willow and Hongu real for us. I could wish I had more time with Songwa, but as this is told from Willow’s point of view for the first two-thirds of the book I can see why that might have been difficult. Overall, this was a great book with good character development; I would give it four stars and fully intend to buy at least one copy as a gift this holiday season.

Rating: 4 out of 5.
On the adult content scale, there’s language, violence, very light sexual content, and some substance use. It’s definitely written with adults in mind, but later teens might like this too. Honestly, I don’t think there’s anything here I would worry about giving to a young teen.

I was lucky enough to recieve an eARC of this book from Netgalley and Forge Books in exchange for an honest review. My thanks! I really enjoyed this one.
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Picture Brides....

There was a time in Hawaii's history that picture brides were a common occurence. In the late 1800's and early 1900's, foreign male workers came to Hawaii to work in the backbreaking sugar cane industry. It was hard, hot, unforgiving work, and men would save up and order a picture bride from their home country. It is a little known part of history and the stories need to be told. 

In the 1918, Willow becomes a picture bride from Korea. Along with several of her friends from Korea, this tale recounts her disappointments and struggles as a picture bride with no money, no education and in a differnt country. 
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The Picture Bride is a novel written by Lee Geum-yi and originally published in March 2020 in Korean. It has been translated into English by An Seonjae and hits shelves October 11, 2022. I am grateful to have received an ARC through NetGalley and am excited to share my honest thoughts on it.

The story follows Willow, a young woman who is growing up as the only daughter of a widowed mother. She is forced to leave school in order to assist her mother with taking care of her younger brothers and keeping the household. Willow dreams of one day returning to continue her education, but circumstances in Korea are not ideal for that dream to come true.

Enter the Pusan Ajimae telling Willow and her mother about an eligible bridegroom in Hawaii. Willow is told that food and clothing are so abundant that they grow on trees and she can return to school to get the education she so longs for. With stars in her eyes, she agrees and thus begins her journey as a picture bride.

I graduated with my bachelor's degree in Asian American Studies over a decade ago. I say this to provide context as I believe my history with the subject matter affected 1) my choice to read this story and 2) my engagement of this story as a reader (though my studies were primarily of Chinese immigrants and this story was about Korean immigrants).

The explanation of how one becomes a picture bride in this story has the chance to read as dull, but the way that Geum-yi went about it brought heart to it that grounded it in reality. The main character of Willow was fleshed out in such a way that you were able to not only understand her feelings and motives, but you were almost able to understand where she was going to go before even she did.

The dynamic between the picture brides was loving and vulnerable. Even in moments where there was jealousy or envy, I never felt like these women were being pitted against each other. It was refreshing to see women supporting each other even in the face of various negative emotions.

While I was familiar with the concept of picture brides, I will admit that my knowledge of the events happening in Korea and the Korean community in Hawaii during this time is very limited. The historical pieces of this novel were really brought to life by the way each of the characters reacted to what was going on around them. Geum-yi was able to paint a full picture of life during this time and it makes me want to pull out some history books and learn more about it.

Understanding the concept of picture brides going in, I did not expect much, if any, romance to be present in this story. While the romance that we normally see in stories is not present, there are touches that brought romance vibes to the forefront. There are also a lot of depictions of non-romantic love and the different ways in which you are able to show someone you care.

I had a small handful of moments where I was reminded that this story was a translation and the original text was not English, but it did not take away my enjoyment of the story as a whole. If more history was presented to me in this way, I probably would've enjoyed learning about it while I was in school.
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Thank you NetGalley and Macmillan-Tor/Forge to give me this ARC book. I leave my honest review here voluntarily!

Actual rating 3.5 ⭐

This book tell us about story of women who left their home for Hawaii to become a picture bride. They hope for a better life and far from war that happening on Korea. Our main character here is Willow but we will not only follow her but also people around her. Especially her friends who also become a picture bride on Hawaii.

Through this book we can see how hard life for Korean at that time and I personally can't imagine how hard it is for them to try find a better life in a foreign country, far from their family and maybe never going to see them again and at the end it's not like what you hope. Most of them trick by their picture groom. Fortunately not for Willow, but Willow must bear a cold husband, the one who never want the marriage and care for her. 

I honestly love how Willow really try to improve her life. She try to talk honestly to her husband, try everything she can to close to her husband, to earn money for herself. Even after her selfish husband leave her for his own selfishness, leaving Willow alone with their child. She really become a great women and mother for her children. 

The story itself hard for the characters and I love to see the friendship of this picture bride, especially for Willow, Hongju and Sanghwa. They become a real sister in a foreign land. But, I didn't really like the ending, I didn't see really how it ends. Is it normal with historical fiction books? because I didn't read much book with this genre.

But I love how the author make the last chapters about Willow daughter's point of view. We will have a quite long time lapse but we will see what happen in the past year through her and of course with a little bit of surprise too.
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I always like to learn new things. The Picture Bride focuses on young Korean women who came to Hawaii to become brides. I was unfamiliar with aspect of history until reading this book. They were called picture brides because the prospective grooms would send their pictures as a way to attract brides.
I found it very interesting to read about their lives on Hawaii, the fight to free Korea and all the domestic troubles that ensued.
If you’re looking for a fresh aspect of a little known topic, this book is a good choice.
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Thank you Net Galley for giving the opportunity to be able to read this ARC.

Given the background of 1910s Korea, Willow sought for a better life in Hawaii. Under the Japanese occupation, women in Korea struggled to gain their rights in getting education, a lot harder for women who didn’t come from the Yangban family. As the young women in Ojin Village were matched to marry, Willow was matched with a stranger across the sea by exchanging pictures. Though she was matched to marry a wealthy man, her dream was to pursue better education in Hawaii. 

I can’t even begin to imagine such experience of marrying a stranger to a world unknown with no slightest idea of the language to communicate. It was refreshing to go through Willow’s journey, her innocence has given her a lot of expectations in the land where “food and clothing is so plentiful, it grows on trees” yet, it’s devastating to see the other women’s lives shattered when they anticipated so much to marry the men they’d chosen only to be duped by the pictures of their respective future husbands and the promises. I have not heard about “picture brides” before and I’m glad that I’m able to learn through this piece of literature; the history, challenges, and expectations put in Korean immigrants. All and all, everything did not come the way we wanted it to be. Far from family, being mistreated in a strange land, struggling to adjust.

I particularly love the relationship Willow established with her best friend, Hongju, and the other women who came in the same journey as her. The emotions put into these women by the author are pertinent that I felt sympathetic. However, because this is my first time of reading a translated version of a book, the writing doesn’t really flow smoothly from scene to scene and action to action. It took me long to finish and to get myself to fully indulge in the moment every time I continue reading it. I wish I had read the original version in Korean the first time.

Overall, if you love Asian literature and historical fiction I’d suggest you give The Picture Bride a go. A beautiful story to learn about a piece of history of Korean diaspora.
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3.5 stars

The Picture Bride is an insightful narrative about a historical period and culture with which I'm unfamiliar. The concept of picture brides is fascinating and terrifying - so many of these women travelled across the world to be misled and often mistreated. Stranded in a strange country where they don't speak the language, many of them illiterate, it would be impossible to do anything other than accept the situation.

"'For me, Korea is the enemy. Because our land is powerless, I lost my husband and my child. But Hawai'i is not Korea, there you'll have no country to protect. Once you're there, just forget us here, be happy with your husband and children, and enjoy life. That's my only wish.'
Her mother's bitter voice was engraved on Willow's heart as she fell asleep."

While Willow's perspective is not devoid of emotion or introspection, I struggled to feel a connection to her and the narrative. I was a passive observer, and it's certainly not because the story wasn't interesting or engaging - I was wholly intrigued with what would happen to her and these other women. The writing style flows from one action to the next, so I think that left me disengaged, just going with the flow.

I would highly recommend The Picture Bride to fans of historical fiction who would like to learn more about an interesting facet of Hawaiian and Korean histories.
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I appreciated this story about Korean picture brides who marry Korean men in Hawaii in the decade of 1910 for its historical fiction elements. I always like learning history that is new to me through historical fiction. This book blends learning about Korean history of that time period with Hawaiian history of that time period. However the writing was a bit flat which might be a result of the book being translated from Korean.
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3.5 stars 

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley and am voluntarily posting a review. All opinions are my own. 

The Picture Bride caught my attention for a few reasons, one being that the “picture bride” marriage practice was a pivotal part of my own family’s history. I also know the most about it from the Korean side of my family, so I was intrigued to see one from a Korean perspective…and to have it also be a translated work made it all the more appealing. 

I really liked how it captures the environment of the period, exploring the reasoning behind women choosing to become picture brides, as well as the risk being taken in marrying someone you don’t know. Willow and the other girls have high expectations of their new husbands, as well as the “paradise” that awaits them in Hawaii, and of course the reality is much different and more complex. 

I also appreciated seeing Willow navigate the challenges that greet her, like her tense relationship with her husband, the adjustment to life working on the plantation, and the struggle to unite and form a community in the face of adversity. 

And while I did have mixed feelings about the direction the book took, I like how it establishes the interconnected news of it all, and how the picture brides were largely still around with their families by the outbreak of World War II, to see their children undergoing their own struggle to assimilate, while maintaining ties their culture. 

But the way it was executed made the World War II/second generation part feel like an afterthought, a few chapters from the daughter’s perspective that felt different from the rest of the book. It would have been interesting if this had either been saved for another book, or if it had been expanded into a fully fleshed out arc in its own right. 

Despite my issues, I really appreciate what this book is trying to do, especially as I haven’t read many, if any, books about this time period. If you’re interested in Asian historical fiction and/or translated fiction, I recommend keeping an eye out for this one.
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This is a fascinating, well-researched account of a period in history I know little about--the culture of Korean communities in Hawaii during the Japanese occupation of Korea. I had heard of the concept of picture brides but did not know about it in the context of this community, nor did I realize how fraudulent the marriages often were. Some of the writing is a little clunky (possibly due to the translation), and the switch in POV from Willow to Pearl felt abrupt, but otherwise the narrative flows well and is informative.
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