The Korea Herald


[New in Korean] Lee Seo-su's experience opening cafe reflected in her latest novel

By Hwang Dong-hee

Published : April 20, 2024 - 11:00

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"Ma-eun's Store" by Lee Seo-su (Moonji Publishing)

"Ma-eun's Store"

By Lee Seo-su

Moonji Publishing

Ma-eun is working hard, but is she happy? No, she cannot sleep soundly, afraid the store will go out of business.

She smiles brightly at the customers, but is she happy? No, she is counting losses and skipping dinner.

“Am I happy? Possibly not,” thinks Ma-eum, a 37-year-old woman who has just opened her cafe.

When Ma-eum's mom asks why she chose to run a business among many options, Ma-eum answers she does not have any options.

"It's because I have to make a living," she says, hiding her dire situation -- she is living in the cafe's storage room for the time being.

Ma-eun spent her 20s in theater, and her last job was at a small private institution. She easily walked away from jobs, but her own business is different. She cannot turn a blind eye to her own business.

And Ma-eun’s cafe, which had been precariously holding its ground, slowly finds stability as she learns to accept feedback and advice appropriately, and to separate herself from her work.

Meanwhile, her friend Bo-young, who works at a company, is as anxious as Ma-eun. She stresses over her work and volunteers to work more hours to avoid being left off the promotion list.

The two struggle with similar situations and anxieties, from housing insecurity to job insecurity, while they build solidarity and comfort with each other.

Author Lee Seo-su’s own experience of starting a cafe and having to close its doors due to the pandemic is reflected in the book.