I read this in an emotionally complicated state, which probably fits with the emotional complexity of the book itself. My mom got me this for Christmas, and then I finished it today after she let me know she’d fainted and was in the emergency room. So reading a book about a mother dying when I wasn’t sure what was going on with my own mom was a recipe for some stressful reading. (My mom is probably fine, by the way, I don’t think she’s in any real danger!)
Crying in H Mart also hit me on a personal level because I was partially raised by a Korean-American woman since I was four, who I call my second mom, so all the descriptions of food and Korean restaurants hit me on a very primal level. Some of my most comforting memories also revolve around eating homemade mandu, being trained to greet the waiters with a polite “annyeonghaseyo,” cute stationary with Little Twin Stars on it, etc etc etc. I thought Zauner did a great job of interweaving sense memory throughout the book. It made me hungry all the time while I was reading it. I also thought that her description of being mixed race was well done (I am also mixed, but differently, so I’ve had other specific experiences. But the core feeling was pretty spot on).
My main issue with the book is that it felt somewhat removed to me. I find that often, unraveling the real depths of grief can take a while, and while she does describe her feelings, they didn’t seem to be fully there yet to me. This is a personal reaction, and I know most other people who read this absolutely love it. It just didn’t hit me completely and I had trouble connecting to the overall narrative. Part of that is also my own relationship with grief and my feelings about parental death. My dad died when I was a kid, so while I did relate to having a parent die, my feelings about it are coming from a very different place. I honestly don’t know if I would recommend this despite everything that I related to. She is a very competent writer and everyone loves this book, but it just didn’t fully connect for me for some reason.
Warnings for: parent dying of cancer in a lot of detail, abortion, physical fight between parent and child, mental health struggles.