cover image A Living Remedy: A Memoir

A Living Remedy: A Memoir

Nicole Chung. Ecco, $28.99 (288p) ISBN 978-0-06303-161-6

Chung (All You Can Ever Know) couches the evolution of the bond between parent and child in the struggles of class and loss in this melancholy memoir. Born “severely premature” in Seattle to Korean immigrants who “did not believe they could afford to raise a medically complex child,” Chung was adopted by a white couple from rural Oregon who had “little guidance from the child welfare system and no model for how to raise a Korean child.” Her adoptive parents lived paycheck to paycheck, which they tried to hide from Chung, who likewise hid the trauma of “racial isolation as an adoptee” growing up where others “let me know that I was not wanted.” She later attended college on a scholarship, married, had children, and moved to D.C. for grad school. Loaded down with student debt, Chung was unable to help her parents as their health failed: her uninsured father couldn’t afford treatment for his diabetes, and her mother died of ovarian cancer, which had Chung “falling, tumbling through empty air, with nowhere to land,” during the pandemic, necessitating her to attend the funeral virtually. Powerfully rendered scenes illuminate this quiet polemic against a dysfunctional healthcare system, hidden poverty, and racism, though the narrative stumbles toward the end as Chung meanders through scattered reflections. There’s great emotional power here, if an imperfect execution. Agent: Maria Massie, Massie and McQuilkin. (Apr.)