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Summary

Inspired by a true event, this powerful short story from the author of National Book Award finalist Pachinko explores the meaning of patriarchy and the cost of female silence through the eyes of a dutiful young girl.

An excellent student from a poor, traditional family in Seoul, the narrator has absorbed the same message her whole life: Only a boy can provide the family with dignity and wealth. Not her. Not her three sisters. Receiving approval only for uncomplaining sacrifice, she has resolved to take on her family’s troubles. She is a good girl. And she knows what good girls must do.

The Best Girls is part of Disorder, a collection of six short stories of living nightmares, chilling visions, and uncanny imagination that explore a world losing its balance in terrifying ways. Each piece can be read or listened to in a single disorienting sitting.

©2019 Min Jin Lee (P)2019 Brilliance Publishing, Inc., all rights reserved.

Critic reviews

“Listeners will be shattered by this short gut punch of an audiobook, narrated with tender precision by Greta Jung.... Jung’s deliberate tone, warming as the girl’s personality unfolds, perfectly matches Lee’s spare prose and heightens the sense of isolate that sets the girl apart.” --AudioFile

What listeners say about The Best Girls

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    4 out of 5 stars

A sad, little story

The only way this poor family in Seoul can gain any sort of dignity, is through a son. And what do they get? One, two, three daughters. What a curse. Fortunately, their fourth child is a boy, and it becomes painfully clear to the girls how they will never be as valued as their brother. What a sad, little story this was.

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Not sure how I felt about this one

It wasn't a bad story per se, but there wasn't any real appeal aside from the brevity of it. I couldn't see the end coming, but the whole story left a bitter taste anyway with the way it captured a tradition that favours boys.
Sometimes you tell yourself that you know these things as abstract concepts, but then you read something like this and remember that it's still a thing and a lot of people think it's right, too.

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  • Qats kindle
  • 23-08-19

Brings back sadness and hurt

Tight construction. Lean prose. Well written. I can feel the hopelessness of poverty and of being a throw away girl. We learn we are different when we see how other parents praise and take joy in their child’s success. Then we know what it means to be “less than”.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Nancy
  • 24-11-20

Never expected

This was amazing, I was lost in the details and never saw it coming. Its amazing well written and read even better. I saw what the author was showing and felt what the narrative was trying to convey. Wow! Thank you.

1 person found this helpful

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  • 🦑
  • 04-05-21

Recommendable, but short.

A depressing end that was fairly well foreshadowed. A subtle disaster.

Recommendable, but short. Good audiobook narration.

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  • Nicole Bartner
  • 20-04-21

be aware this is a short story

Min Jin Lee is an excellent storyteller. her stories pull you, drag you along, give you insight to worlds, peoples, lives, experiences you would otherwise not have access to. all good fiction should accomplish that. she also tells you many things without ever having to "spell them out." THAT is the skill of a really good writer.

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  • Lucas Hicks
  • 15-04-20

Nostalgic

The many references to Korean culture makes me very nostalgic about my second home. There is a reference to peppers over the door when a boy is born. (Pepper for..pepper)

This story however, paints a desperate image of one of the darker parts of K Culture. The choice of males over females.

The boys protect and honor the family. Saves the parents from dying lonely in the mountains.

The best girls never complain.

This isnt universal however, as some girls now get treated with traditional birthdays and the society is evening out.

I love it greatly. As a very short piece, it summarizes Korea well.

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  • T. Robbins
  • 20-03-20

A sad look at reality

That was a quick, but sad read. It’s sad that some societies place so little value on the lives of girls and women that they (the girls and women) think to kill themselves as a means to help out their family.

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  • zunsuke
  • 27-02-20

what the hell did I just listen to?

awful story, wooden performance. 0/10.

I hope this was a freebie--i can't remember how it joined my library...

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  • Sandra Adams
  • 11-09-19

Good Story,

But so sad. Hard to believe what a young girl is willing to do for her family.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 29-08-19

Sad...so very sad

Although the story is sad, it is a good short story. I'd recommend it for a quick listen.

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  • Mark
  • 19-08-19

Sad, Relatable Story Ending with a Gut Punch

For most of this brief story, the narration lulled along, reminding me a bit of "A Thousand Pieces of Gold", telling the all-too-common story of a bright girl growing up in a culture which does not value girls. Her achievements were seen as blocking some boys' chances, rather than anything to be celebrated.

Then the ending hit. And hit hard.