The Return

Silvia Kwon

The Return
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The Return

Silvia Kwon

War ends and the world changes, as it always does. The enemy are no longer the enemy just people living their lives. But hate is hard to extinguish. The scars of war are not always visible, and they don’t always fade. They haven’t for Merna Gibson and they definitely haven’t for her husband, Frank. He won’t ever forget what was done to him and his mates. The nightmares, the aches, the pain of seeing things a person should never see stay with him, always. The long-ago war colours their family life.

For Merna, at home on the farm, Japan is very far away. For Frank, it isn’t far enough. But their son, Paul, doesn’t carry the same beliefs. For him, Japan is a place of possibility, a country to embrace. Father and son live worlds apart even when at the same table. Hate and prejudice has created a gulf between the two.

When a woman comes into their son’s life, it is left to Merna to try to bridge the gap. Caught between the two men she loves she is determined to keep her family together, while still everything keeps changing.

The Return
is a powerful story about love, hate and forgiveness that will stir your heart.


Set in rural Victoria in the 1960s, Silvia Kwon’s debut novel, The Return, looks at small-town Australia, post-World War II. Paul has been working and living in Japan away from his family. Back home, his mother, Merna, pines for his return and his dad, Frank, a war veteran, was against him ever going and can’t wait for Paul to leave Japan behind him. Eventually, Paul does return to visit, but he’s brought a Japanese woman home with him.

While Merna tries her best to be accepting, Frank, still very much tormented by the war, sees Paul’s actions as a kind of betrayal, and a similar resentment is felt among a number of the townsfolk.

In town, the young couple face discrimination and things at home aren’t much better. Frank refuses to address matters with his son, and basically ignores the woman he’s brought with him. Paul, too, shows an extreme lack of compassion towards his father, completely underestimating the lasting effects the war has had. Merna tells the story from her point of view, as she tries to mediate between the two men. Though there is charm to her character’s compassion, her thoughts are, at times, over articulated and slow the pace of the story.

There are tender moments throughout the book; Kwon nicely handles intimacies between the young couple and between Merna and her son. In spite of Merna’s drawn-out observations, Kwon’s storyline is strong, and the ending is satisfying.

Ella Mittas is a freelance reviewer.

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