The literary world of Pak depicts the trials of the Korean War and the subsequent three decades of upheaval during which Korea was transformed from a military dictatorship and an agriculturally based society to an urban industrialized, albeit troubled, democracy. Pak offers a searching woman's perspective on radical changes in Korean family structures and social values, exposing the cruelty and hypocrisy of Korea's Confucian traditions, which have subjugated women for centuries. Her realistic prose also portrays the dehumanizing impacts of the capitalist market order that characterizes Korea today.
With rich insight, Pak presents moral ambiguities inherent in Korea's society today and encourages her readers to question the injustices that prevail in the more impersonal and often alienated world emerging in a "globalized" Korea.
In the title story, Ivy and her best friend Duncan struggle to understand their mortality as Ivy learns of his potentially fatal internal scarring caused by a moped accident. As Ivy says, "Things can get so strange so fast," and they frequently do in Wells's stories. But Ivy and Duncan help each other escape their frightening, difficult world, if only momentarily, through imagination, good humor, and closeness.
"Godlight" addresses most specifically the questions that are evident in all the stories: Do you believe in God, and do you believe in reincarnation? Jonas, the Hyatt Regency Hotel's live-in light bulb replacement man, encounters two different characters--a child who lives in the hotel and a woman who claims that her identity has been altered for the Witness Protection Program--who ponder these questions. Meanwhile, Jonas is left wondering what has really become of his missing daughter, Emma.
The physical world is brought into question frequently in this collection, and in "My Guardian, Claire," we see what can happen when someone tries to transcend it--and succeeds. During a séance to reach the narrator's late mother, Claire reaches the spirit world and never truly returns. The narrator tries desperately to retrieve Claire through a hilarious trip to the Exotic Animal Drive-Thru Paradise.
Compression Scars is an eloquent and original collection that vibrantly captures the oddities of both the everyday and the out-of-this-world.