Local author captivates readers with first book

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"War came again to the Land of Morning Calm, the Hermit Kingdom in 1950. It rolled down from the north, driving before it continuing streams of refugees with their carts, donkeys, pushcarts, bicycles, and even Jiggis for the more fortunate ones; the rest, afoot, carried what they could in any way they could: babies, furniture, household effects, clothing; and if they had any capacity remaining, such food as they could hastily scrape together for the journey south."

Thus begins the introduction to "South of the Mountain" by Eloise Reid Frary, a local writer who will sign copies of her new book at 1 p.m. Satur-day, Sept. 16 at On the Shelf Bookstore.

Frary's book reads like good fiction, but it is the true story of her father's efforts to establish a missionary hospital in Songdo (Kaesung), Korea.

The story also follows the interesting life of Paik Sul-Ram, a Korean girl who played an important role in the Christian missionary efforts in Korea.

Frary said the book lay dormant in her mind for many years until the end of the story became known to her.

"I should have written it years ago," she said, "but I didn't know the end of it. It took me years to put that story together, but I think it's worth it."

She feels the book still resonates, because Korea has come back into prominence in recent years. Frary also still has strong feelings for the land where she was born, and where she lived until she was 17.

"I'm very fond of the place I love Korea," she said.

The story, Paik Sul-Ram, is one of struggle, determination and wonder. Her missionary involvement began as the result of a prophetic dream, according to Frary. The book describes the event as follows:

"It was the Bible woman rushing in: 'Won-jong, you must come! No she is not in fever. She is a strong girl, and obedient; yet, she is sitting upright! I gave her a pillow. But she says ... she says ... never have I heard the like!'

The Bible woman continued; 'She says she has our holy books at home; yes, the red one and the green one, which her father had given to her after she saw them at her father's house, when she went to his ta-jup (birthday celebration)! And she says he gave them to her after she told him of a dream she had had at her husband's house, before she went to her father's ta-jup. She says she cannot read, but she began telling me some of the sayings of the teacher Matthew, and she says she was taught this by Jesus in her dream!'"

The green book and red book were a New Testament and a hymn book, according to Frary. Paik Sul-Ram eventually did learn how to read, and she dedicated her life to missionary work, despite the difficulties presented by Japanese occupation of Korea and by the then prevalent animistic and ancestor worship religions of the country.

Frary has begun work on her second book, A Beautiful Tiger, which she describes as a sort of companion piece to South of the Mountain. The second book will describe the experiences of her family living and working in a foreign land.

Frary's first book is an interesting and educational read, and it is filled with elements of human compassion, determination and faith. Anyone who reads this first effort will surely be anxious for the next installment.

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