The Zoo at 4 O'Clock

Seo Jeonga
125 X 205
978-89-6545-728-2 03810
May 2021
Short Stories

This collection of stories looks into the complexities of our lives while we work to ignore the anxieties deep within us as we navigate our way.

Where is your life headed?

There are people who attempt to go on living even as a part of their lives has come crashing down.

The characters in these stories are simple, everyday folk who wake up in the morning, head to work, come home, then go to bed. And yet, they find themselves riddled with a mysterious anxiety that gnaws at them every single day. Where did things go wrong? Even if they know the answer, they ignore the problem and continue to go on living as they did before. Even as a part of their lives has come crashing down, they still pick up the pieces and go on living, much like we all do.

In "I Don't Know Where I Am," Jino causes a traffic accident that accidentally kills a poor, elderly woman. Jino and his wife are relieved when they're able to reach a fairly quick settlement with the family of the deceased and return to their old lives, not stopping to think of the aftermath of the incident. The problems caused by their actions, their choices, and their words slowly cause a great crack in their lives.

"Morning Comes Late" tells the story of Yukyung, who forces herself to keep on living after losing her son in a drowning accident. The people around her, who talk lightly of her trauma without fully understanding her pain, cause her even more sorrow. Yukyung tries resenting her son's friend, who managed to survive the accident, and thinks of the happy memories she had with her son. She even blames herself for not stopping her son from going out to swim that fateful day, but try as she may, she cannot get past this phase of grieving. She wants to give up on life as she knows it, but instead, she must toil on, while clutching on to her second child.

Seo Jeong Ah paints nuanced, delicate portraits of her characters and their complicated emotions. Even as her characters feel a sense of confusion in their current situations and feelings, they still get up to prepare for tomorrow, just as contemporary readers today, who make it through the day only to get up the next day and do it all over again. Readers will find themselves nodding in understanding at Seo's characters who find themselves confronting a new day without the time to look back on their confusing mix of emotions.