The third memoir in a trilogy about processing and moving past the trauma of surviving the Cambodian genocide.
Activist Ung (Lucky Child, 2006, etc.) wrote two previous well-received chronicles of her stint as a child soldier serving the Khmer Rouge. She lost most of her family to the killing fields, built a new life as a refugee in Vermont and reunited with a sister who was abandoned in Cambodia. This book chronicles the next chapter of her life, the decade that began with her time in college. At age 20 she fell in love with Mark, a wholesome, optimistic Midwesterner. The author gives a significant amount of attention to their courtship and eventual successful marriage. Even the magic of their romance, however, couldn’t negate her almost-daily struggles with depression and residual post-traumatic stress. Mark's sunniness, which originally drew her to him, became a source of resentment, but she ultimately recognized as positive her husband's capacity to love without fear. The title is a combination of Ung's nickname, Lulu, and the Beatles' song, and its implicit optimism reflects a theme running through the author’s life. "People will always die," an aunt told her, "but we have to continue to live. Live, eat, and love." After college, she and Mark moved to Washington, D.C., where she began her lifelong work as an activist. The book closes with another return trip to Cambodia in 2000.
Ung's writing is clear-headed, honest and compelling; much of what she describes, from the brutalities she and her family endured to the ways it steered her adult life, is deeply affecting.