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.
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.