• Book Review
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Functional Family Dysfunction


Throughout Modern Family, Cheon Myeong-kwan’s 2010 novel, the narrator, In-mo, describes the story he is telling as a soap opera. Indeed it has all the hallmarks of the genre: sibling rivalries; long-held secrets; high emotion; money troubles; and a long-suffering mother, striving to hold her family together. However, Cheon—who cut his literary teeth as a screenwriter— is not writing a traditional soap opera. Instead he uses the format’s tropes to build a nuanced picture of a contemporary family and to examine the commodification of personal relationships. In-mo, a failed, middle-aged movie director, has been pushed by bankruptcy to move in with his mother and recidivist elder brother, Hammer. Just as they are settling into awkward co-habitation, a younger sister, Mi-yeon, who has split up with her husband over a fight about her infidelity, arrives with her teenage daughter, Min-gyeong. The pressures of living cheek-by-jowl soon begin to test the family’s loyalties and affection.



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