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Tradition and superstition clash with contemporary American culture—with mixed results. After more than 20 years of separation, Chinhominey (Korean for paternal grandmother) visits her son, daughter-in-law, and two grown grandchildren in Los Angeles. Chinhominey’s family has built a typical middle-class American life in the suburbs despite the fateful prophecy that drove the newlyweds from Korea decades ago. Before the Chois” marriage, Chinhominey brought news from a fortune-teller that the two should never wed—that they would experience only unhappiness, and that their second daughter would die young. Seeking an escape from this black prophecy (and from Chinhominey’s constant pessimism), the couple not only married but moved away with high expectations for their young family. But their grand desires were never met, and now, when Chinhominey arrives, she sees secret unhappiness in all four members of her family, unsuspecting that her own long-ago prediction is in part the cause of it. First daughter Christina, foretold as the good offspring, sleepwalks through an abusive relationship with her boyfriend, whose only redeeming feature seems to be his status as a doctor. And second daughter Grace, always scrutinized for the impending mark of self-destruction, overachieves academically to fill the emptiness induced by being second best. Mr. and Mrs. Choi are even less happy, haunted by memories of a hopeful youth filled with love and passion that is now reduced to resentment and expensive appliances. Things hardly improve under grandmother’s watchful gaze, and in fact disintegrate: Christina is confronted with a shattering lie from her fiancÇ, Grace is rejected from Harvard Law, and Mr. Choi contemplates an affair with his assistant at work. Can Chinhominey’s secret—knowledge that is literally killing her’save the family? Apparently it can. A slim first novel that offers interesting insights into the power of a family legacy, though the story itself is sadly much too sketchy and thin to provide the impact that it might have.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1999
ISBN: 1-882593-28-6
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Bridge Works
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1999