(Masterpieces of American Literature)

I Am the Clay is a most touching story that should have particular appeal to young readers. This novel chronicles the arduous departure of an old Korean peasant couple who are forced from their village because the Chinese and people they identify as friends from the north are invading their territory and will unquestionably deal harshly with any civilians left behind.

As their precipitate flight continues, they find a boy near death in a drainage ditch. Although the old man wants to abandon the child, his wife will not hear of doing so. She nurses the boy back to health and takes him into her family as one of her own. The boy, as it turns out, is able to reciprocate their care in remarkable ways. First he saves the couple from an attack by a pack of wild dogs. Next he finds fish for them to eat when they are desperately hungry and on the brink of starvation. Eventually, he manages to obtain an ox for them.

Finally the old man is won over by the boy and accepts him as a surrogate member of the family. He is convinced that the boy has brought him and his wife luck. As these three disparate characters move toward evolving into a family, each of the three has to deal with ghosts from their pasts.

The old man has to fight his overwhelming appetite for meat, developed when he was young and strong enough to hunt for his food. His insatiable cravings are difficult for him to control. His wife, on the other hand, has to deal with...

(The entire section is 430 words.)