By Kim Hye-bin
The novel "Graiai" begins with a powerful opening as the head of a mummy is unearthed in an Irish peatland.
Named “Baek-hee,” the head is confirmed to have Korean ancestry. Why Baek-hee left the Korean Peninsula 2,500 years ago, and the whereabouts of her body remain a mystery.
The narrative is divided into three parts: In Part 1, the story centers around Joo-na, a broadcast journalist, investigating the excavation in Ireland. Part 2 follows Young, who assists her father, Dr. Yoo, in researching the mummy. In Part 3, the story of Baek-hee, a girl born with six fingers and lifelong recluse, takes center stage.
It's a coming-of-age story of three women who are met with violence, and whose dreams and futures are under threat.
These female protagonists continually find themselves constrained by society, uncertain about their desires and their identities.
The title comes from the Greek word "graeae," which in English translates to “gray” or "old women.” It often refers to three sisters in Greek mythology who share one eye and one mouth.
These sisters were born with gray hair, and the title aligns with the author's thematic exploration of "girls who aged from birth."
The novel won the Park Hwa-seong Literary Award this year, formerly known as the Mokpo Literary Award, honoring the first Korean female author to write a full-length novel.
The award carries one of the largest cash prizes in Korea for a literary award -- 70 million won ($52,000).