The human concerns Cho centers in her writing—the project of loving specific people, of remembrance—are as real and immediate as anyone’s living. This is not to say the archives she engages, and the one she enacts, are not also alive, but that Cho has managed a deft presentation of an uncertain and critically underserved past ... My desire, moreover, to praise Cho’s as-if-contained writerly achievements runs concurrent to the impulse to situate other texts around hers, to create an expanded grid upon which to consider its open registers, particularly in a climate such as ours ... As ever, to write about a thing without containing it requires a certain ability to know when to not write about the thing, which Cho manages without foregrounding the negative as a Neat Technique. Truly, this project feels like it’s expressing a fundamentally complex thing about immigrant experiences, about the experiment that is Korean America, about womanhood, mental illness, and grief.
... intimate ... The writing is casual yet retains a sociological approach, as Cho fills her late mother’s silences with historical fact ... Cho’s book unspools in short bursts, out of time, echoing the wilding of her mother’s mind ... Cho responds to the many voids in her mother’s narrative with a composite of grim historical accounts ... The book is full of phantoms: an uncle and grandfather who died during the Korean War; a student in Chehalis who died by suicide; the child of a Korean immigrant in North Carolina who was killed in a tragic accident.
Cho has been writing this book as 'equal parts therapy and eulogy' as she laid bare her achingly symbiotic relationship with her enigmatic mother. Nearly two decades since Koonja’s mysterious death, Cho write[s] her back into existence, to let her legacy live on the page, and in so doing, trace [Cho’s] own.' The spectacular result is both an exquisite commemoration and a potent reclamation.