When my grandfather passed away, my parents placed me and my older sister under the care of my grandmother so that she didn’t appear abandoned. My parents and my younger sister continued to live in a city where my father was the bank president. I was ten, old enough to understand my father’s decision.
I actually have many happy memories of that time—chasing grasshoppers with friends, fishing for little carp in the stream, eating cotton blossoms, and sucking on sugar cane in a neighbor’s fields. In that small farming village, I often heard old clan women gossip. They usually talked about their lives and lives of others who were not present, and even their ancestors’ lives that had been told before more than once.
One day I overheard them talk excitedly about a woman from Seoul who was brought to a house of a minor clan man in his forties to be his wife without any wedding announcement or ceremony. They said the woman was beautiful and looked as though she had some money. Even though they didn’t say it aloud, I could tell that they wondered why such a woman would marry him, an unremarkable widower. It seemed a relative of a distant clan woman arranged the marriage.
I passed by the widower’s house at least once a day to take a look at the widower’s bride. When I finally saw her, even I knew at age eleven that she was a very different kind than what I was used to. A woman of beauty was rare in that sun-splashed village where people’s skin took on a coloring of scorched-rice. Not only was she beautiful with pearly smooth skin, but also was poised like a noble woman in her manners and dress. Why indeed would such a woman come to this sleepy village to live with a man who didn’t possess looks, status, wit, resources, or close relations?
Before I could learn more about the woman, my sister and I joined our parents in a city. When I visited my clan village again the following year, no one talked about the woman. No one said so but my hunch was that she no longer lived there with the widower.
The title of my next novel is The Woman Who Came on a Night Train. I am having fun letting my imagination stretch to weave a story about a woman whose sudden presence in a small insulated village stirs the villagers and changes three lives.