Grace Park and Shawn Matthews share a city, Los Angeles, but seemingly little else, coming from different generations and very different communities.
As Grace battles with confusion over her elder sister’s estrangement from her Korean-immigrant parents, Shawn tries to help his cousin Ray readjust to civilian life after years spent in prison.
But what is it in their past that links these two families? As the city around them threatens to erupt into violence, echoing the worst days of the early 1990s, the lives of Grace and Shawn are set to collide in ways that will change them all for ever.
It’s rare for a novel to succeed in being both thrilling and thoughtful but Steph Cha’s taut novel Your House Will Pay, which examines both the tensions that arise between black and Korean communities in contemporary Los Angeles and the lingering fallout from the riots that tore the city apart in the early 1990s, manages to walk that fine line.
Focusing on the lives of two families, Cha gradually builds a sensitive and nuanced portrait of race relations in the City of Angels, exposing the fault lines of inequality, injustice, prejudice and tension that threatens attempts to find both reconciliation and redemption.
Shifting between the perspectives of Shawn, a middle-aged black man who feels that he might finally have put his tragic and violent past behind him, and Grace, a young Korean woman who is struggling to reconcile the conservatism of her aging parents with the liberalism of her charismatic elder sister, Your House Will Pay explores issues of gang violence, family, redemption, loyalty, promise and betrayal with sharp-eyed clarity.
Both characters, although flawed in their own way, are sympathetically portrayed. Grace’s confusion over her place in contemporary America, and her initial obliviousness to the fault lines that divide her community will resonate with many readers, as will Shawn’s desperation to create a better life for himself and his family and his fear of falling back into his former life, with its tantilising promise of vengeance and repentance.
Despite both characters coming from very different backgrounds and communities to my own, Your House Will Pay did that thing that all excellent fiction does and made me walk a mile in both Shawn and Grace’s shoes. By the end of the novel I was desperate for them both to find the redemption that they sought and transcend the tragic legacy left by a violent flash point in LA’s history.
The novel also boasts a gripping, suspense-filled plot that will have you racing through the pages. In all honesty, I was worried I’d started this one too late for my blog tour review spot but I raced through the book’s 300 or so pages, desperate to find out what was going to happen to these two families. Blending high-octane drama with sharply-observed humour and a touching portrayal of two sets of everyday family lives, the novel packs one hell of an emotional punch and has a resonance that will linger long after you’ve turned the final page.
Combining the page-turning quality of a crime thriller with the sharp and thoughtful prose of literary fiction, Your House Will Pay is a mesmerising portrait of family life, personal legacies, and race relations. Tackling a subject of huge contemporary relevance with both nuance and sensitivity, this is a novel that will stay with me and that I will be urging friends and family to read – and that I would urge all of you reading this to go and pick up too.
Your House Will Pay by Steph Cha is published by Faber & Faber and is available now in trade paperback and ebook from all good booksellers and online retailers including Hive, Waterstones, Book Depository, and Amazon.
My thanks go to Lauren Nicoll from Faber & Faber for providing a copy of the book and inviting me to take part in this blog tour in return for an honest and unbiased review. The blog tour continues until 23 January 2020 so do check out the other stops for more reviews and content!