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.
A Korean immigrant and sociology professor reevaluates her mother's past and their fraught relationship ... In this probing, vividly written memoir, charged with the pain of losing 'the person I loved most in the world,' Cho moves fluidly around in time, touching on difficult as well as happy memories—e.g., her mother's former zest for foraging and baking dozens of blackberry pies. Using the tools she developed as a sociologist, as well as her own insights as a daughter, the author was able to shape an evocative portrait of her mother's past ... Though Cho refuses to settle on a specific explanation for her mother's illness, which creates some sense of an unresolved narrative, the author’s re-creation of her family dynamic is haunting and filled with palpable emotion. A wrenching, powerful account of the long-term effects of the immigrant experience.
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.