Tag Archives: Mother-Daughter Relationships

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 Scent Keeper

The Scent Keeper

The Scent Keeper
By Erica Bauermeister
St. Martin’s Press, 9781250200136, May 2019, 320pp.

The Short of It:

If you’ve ever been fascinated with scent and the memories associated with it, you will enjoy The Scent Keeper.

The Rest of It:

Emmaline and her father live on a remote island in the Pacific Northwest. There, her father collects scents, memories really on little slips of paper that he keeps in wax-sealed bottles. He captures these scents using a special machine of his, one that has always been magical in Emmaline’s eyes.

As Emmaline grows older, she learns that there is more than just life on the island and suddenly finds herself imprisoned by these scents. A collection that holds her father’s attention more than anything else. In a moment of frustration, Emmaline makes a decision that not only affects her place on the island, but her future as well.

I was completely taken with the first half of this novel. I am a scent person. There is always a candle nearby, or a fragrant hand lotion, or perfume or something because certain scents make me happy and I surround myself with them. The first half of this novel was magical to me. The ties between scent and memory really gave me warm, happy feelings. Think about how you feel when you smell warm apple pie or cookies baking in the oven. Lovely, right?

Well, the second half of the novel was quite different. Although it still explored scent, it didn’t do so in the innocent way of memories. It was tied to money and manipulation which for me, was a real turn-off. I realize that the author was probably playing the two experiences off of one another but the story lost its magic when money was brought into it. It added a grittiness that I did not enjoy.

I love this author though. I’ve read three other books by Bauermeister so I am really familiar with her work. The Scent Keeper has a totally different feel than any of her other books so if you are looking for it to be similar you will be disappointed. Personally, I would have liked the second half to go a different way but I am not a bestselling author.

Source: Review copy provided by the publisher.
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.