Tag Archives: Aging

Review: Crying in H Mart

Crying in H Mart

Crying in H Mart
By Michelle Zauner
Knopf, 9780525657743, April 2021, 256pp.

The Short of It:

If not for the food talk, I’m not sure I would have liked this one as much as I did.

The Rest of It:

What many of you may not know is that Crying in H Mart is a memoir.

In this exquisite story of family, food, grief, and endurance, Michelle Zauner proves herself far more than a dazzling singer, songwriter, and guitarist. With humor and heart, she tells of growing up one of the few Asian American kids at her school in Eugene, Oregon; of struggling with her mother’s particular, high expectations of her; of a painful adolescence; of treasured months spent in her grandmother’s tiny apartment in Seoul, where she and her mother would bond, late at night, over heaping plates of food. ~ Indiebound

The relationship that Zauner and her mother shared was strained at best. Asian mothers are known to be critical and Zauner’s mom was certainly that, but she was also ill and dying and yet, the two were still like oil and water except for when it came to food. The food of Zauner’s childhood takes center stage here and there is comfort to be had as she takes the reader by the hand and walks them through the aisles of H Mart. Literally. I was so taken by the mention of those foods that I sought out an H Mart near me (35 miles away) so I could experience what she described in the book. Unfortunately, I visited the story in the evening so all the food stalls were closed. I did leave with some Korean snacks though for our book club meeting.

It was hard to have empathy for Zauner. She seemed a little bratty although she was a young adult when her mom was diagnosed with cancer. Her exasperation over her father’s handling of the diagnosis was difficult to read at times. People handle grief in different ways so her demanding him to react a certain way made for tense reading.

I do feel that she wrote this with a bit of space between herself and her story. At times she felt very disconnected from the story she was telling. Self-preservation? Perhaps. However, it kept me from getting fully invested in the story. I liked it, and felt she had something to say but not sure it came across as intended.

It was good for discussion though and the snacks were great.

Source: Purchased
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

Review: The Swimmers

The Swimmers

The Swimmers
By Julie Otsuka
Knopf, 9780593321331, February 2022, 192pp.

The Short of It:

This slim novel packs a punch.

The Rest of It:

When the story opens, we meet the swimmers. A group of people who frequent the community pool for laps, sometimes social interaction, but mostly as a form of therapy. The busyness of their lives comes to a halt once they submerge themselves in the water. All the noise of the world is drowned out and they are left with their thoughts as trivial as some of them may be.

As their routines unfold daily, Otsuka takes note of each detail. Almost in a checklist format. We learn about the rules of the pool and how some of the swimmers follow them religiously, and some not so much but never enough to lose their pool privileges because it’s clear that each of them value that time in the water.

The second half of the story focuses on a startling flaw that appears in the form of a crack, along the bottom of the pool. What does it mean? Is it just cosmetic? Will it grow larger? Does it represent a larger issue that could jeopardize their cherished swim time? As with most changes in routine, the appearance of this crack does not go over well.

In fact, we see how it affects these swimmers, specifically Alice who is suffering from dementia. Her time in the pool, and the regular interaction with the other swimmers is what holds her memory together but as soon as that is disrupted, her memory begins to slip away even more quickly. Her daughter relays to the reader her mother’s time in the Japanese internment camp and how bits of those memories float around untethered only to disappear all together.

The Swimmers is a little sad but also wonderful. Otsuka brings importance to every minute detail.

Source: Purchased
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.