Our Happy Times – Gong Ji-Young
A book that talks about religion, people, intentions, actions, life, and many more.
When I first started reading, I was slightly put off by the way one of the characters in the book who talked about God and Christianity throughout, believing and giving her life to Him. I don’t know if I believe in the existence of God. I do not deny His existence, nor do I see it. It didn’t make me put the book down because the main character of the book – Yu-Jeong – had tried to kill herself three times, and she was going to meet death row convicts with her aunt Monica who believed very deeply in Christ. Aunt Monica told Yu-Jeong that she could save her – which was one of the parts that put me off because I didn’t believe that a religion could save a person. Another thing about this book was that it was written in chapters that are alternate. A chapter from Yu-Jeong’s perspective, and another from the other main character of the story – Yunsu.
Yunsu was charged with murder and he was a death row convict. Yu-Jeong was supposed to visit him with Aunt Monica. From the perspective of Yunsu, he was brought up in a harsh environment where he lost his brother, Eunsu, and at the same time, he lost all hope in humanity. His cold heart was created by the society, as the book has led me to believe.
Hence, as a reader, I want to believe that there is a good in him. I didn’t forget that, however, this is still a book written, and words put down.
The story itself wasn’t very ‘exciting’. What I mean to say is that it didn’t have a lot of killing and maybe suspense. It was a story that’d catch my heart from reminding me things that I had forgotten. Yunsu, as a death row convict, was facing death. He didn’t know when, and he wasn’t allowed to take off his hand cuffs. It was hellish, in the book, the images painted into my head were hellish and unbearable.
They met, they talked, and they shared stories about themselves.
There are a lot of things that reminded me of who I am, and what I am through this book. The first time I read it, I was reading to know the story. The following times, I was holding on to every bits of details, wondering if it had a deeper meaning, or was it just casually written down. One of the most captivating reminders that I have learnt from this book is that we are all going to die, just like Yunsu. Yunsu was waiting for his time to come in a prison, and he knew very well. It was because someone had told him that he would be executed in any day. He was in a detention centre because that was how it worked. Their cases were never finished and once it’s over, these convicts would be dead. We are all just like Yunsu, living in a larger detention centre. We have forgotten that we are going to die, someday. It could be today, or tomorrow, or the day after. We live in a peaceful place. Hence, it is easy for us to forget what life can do to us. We’d say tomorrow, but we never know if we could wake up tomorrow, yet we took for granted the days that we have, just because we have forgotten that we all might be living our last moments.
This goes to the people we love as well. The moments that we have with the people we love might be the last ones today, or tomorrow. Many of us take things for granted, even the people that we love for granted. Maybe that is why a lot of us cry at funerals, because we know that we could have spent more time with the ones we love, and yet we chose to do something else instead. It was different for Yu-Jeong and Yunsu, because they both knew that their times were limited, and hence they treasured their times together, not talking about things that didn’t matter. Yu-Jeong called it ‘real conversation’. She mentioned that she hated clichés, because it was useless and meaningless. It made me think of the small talks we have during social events. Most of the times, we make conversation on things that don’t matter – one of the reasons to my quietness around people I don’t know. I wonder, why do we bother?
Once I read the book again, I realised that it is not only the death that haunts us, but also our relationship with the people around. It may not seem like it, but it can affect so many people – just like the butterfly effect. Our actions, our words, can have so much effect on someone that we might not even know. The child who steals a bread, what story does he have to tell? The child who becomes a murderer, what are his intentions? The child who is blind, what has made him so? It is so easy to watch on the surface and judge when we don’t know half the stories that were untold. I realized, that the littlest of all things might have a huge impact on someone else, which made me wonder how many thing I have done that affected someone else, in a good and bad way.
I fall into silence everytime I read a book as such. It makes me realize a lot of things that are never told, that are never shown. Its beauty, maybe, can be appreciated more through countless reread and in a beautiful silence.