My Brilliant Life: How It’s Like to Live with Progeria || A Book Review

My Brilliant Life

Author: Kim Ae-ran

Translator: Chi-Young Kim

Publisher: Forge

Released: January 26th, 2021

Genre: Fiction

Pages: 203

Format: Paperback

Characters: Areum, Daesu, Mira, Grandpa Jang, …

Ae-ran Kim’s My Brilliant Life explores family bonds and out-of-the-ordinary friendships, interweaving the past and present of a tight-knit family, finding joy and happiness in even the most difficult times.

Areum lives life to its fullest, vicariously through the stories of his parents, conversations with Little Grandpa Jang—his sixty-year-old neighbor and best friend—and through the books he reads to visit the places he would otherwise never see.

For several months, Areum has been working on a manuscript, piecing together his parents’ often embellished stories about his family and childhood. He hopes to present it on his birthday, as a final gift to his mom and dad; their own falling-in-love story.

Through it all, Areum and his family will have you laughing and crying, for all the right reasons.

Source: Goodreads

It’s been a while since I read a book about a terminal disease and one that is not cliche. I think the last book that made me feel this way was Ghost Boy by Martin Pistorius (don’t judge this review, it’s from 5 years ago). A story that comes from the POV of the person with the disease himself and it’s not romanticized, it’s raw and it deals with what he has to go through in his everyday life.

Mind you, going into this book, I didn’t do any background research about this book. All I know is that it has a pretty good synopsis and the synopsis didn’t state anything about a specific terminal disease, I had no clue at all. It all unfurled to me slowly as I read this book. The prologue itself is already heart shattering. I was confused at first with the sentimental sentences but a quarter into the book later, the prologue made me want to cry even more badly cause I started to understand what the main character is going through.

“You were able to see yourself in a way you were unable to before. You became a child again by becoming a parent. That had to be why people had children. “
– Kim Ae-ran, My Brilliant Life

The synopsis is very accurate when it says one will laugh and cry for all the right reasons because I did and I almost cried when I was in the clinic waiting for my turn as I was reading this book. Then, just a moment later, I wanted to laugh. I hope nobody noticed that. The story starts off with Areum talking about how his parents met and had him and even then, not much of his condition is revealed to the readers. But as the story goes, I learnt that this small family is going through a lot and the author did such an amazing job at spinning the tale which is told by Areum. I’ve never seen this kind of writing before whereby we have the main character who’s not yet born but telling the story of how his parents ended up together. Through his lens, I got to see how these young parents deal with their friends, family and society and also with each other and with themselves. What I like about Daesu and Mira is their honesty and they are still being the teens they are yet understand their responsibility after conceiving Areum. Do they worry about the future? Yes. Are they going to grow up as typical Asian parents? Most probably yes based on their late night conversations in the book. But I adore them as they take it one step at a time and always do what’s best for their child.

“But I believe that the larger miracle exists in the ordinary, in the living of an ordinary life and dying at an ordinary age. To me the miracles are my parents, my aunts and uncles, our next-door neighbors, the middle of summer and the middle of winter.”
– Kim Ae-ran, My Brilliant Life

Areum, the main character, is a 16 year old boy caught in an 80 year old body. He ages way too fast and is older than his own parents. It’s almost impossible not to like Areum because you can see compassion, maturity and kindness all at once in him. His humour is endless and his positivity towards life is just out of the world. I specifically love the part when he is asked what makes him want to live and the author wrote his reply so beautifully that it’s impossible not to tear up. Everything in his life down to when his father is clipping the toenails makes him want to live. When you have a very short life, you start to look forward everything little thing in life, I guess. It makes me think for a moment, have I been ungrateful all this while for having a good long healthy life?

“I imagine there are only one or two times in a person’s lifetime that one cries like that, when one’s child is born and when one’s child dies.”
– Kim Ae-ran, My Brilliant Life

Also, at the most unexpected moment, the author decided to include a little cute friendship that almost turn to more than just friends situation. I think it’s rather cute and it gives more chances for Areum to discover his feelings. I really enjoyed the email exchange between the Areum and his friend. It’s just that when the author sort of give a little twist to the identity of the friend, I didn’t know what to feel and the fact that Areum didn’t feel much about his virtual friend’s identity confuses me even more. But maybe, he’s just being grateful that he found a person whom he could talk freely to regardless their identity.

Coming towards the end of the book, more new events take place and again I didn’t know how to react to that because I feel like flow of the story is now somehow disrupted. It is not confusing but rather, I’m wondering why and perhaps conflicted. The reason why the author included these new events in the resolution and the ending still a mystery to me.

Overall, I adore this book a lot. This book deals with life, appreciating all the little things in life, family relationship and humanity. I’d highly recommend this brilliant book.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s