Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner

Ever since my mom died, I cry in H Mart.

Richly observed and heartbreakingly candid Crying in H Mart provides a powerful account of a complicated mother-daughter relationship. In her memoir musician Michelle Zauner writes with painful clarity of when at age 25 her mother was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer. Zauner’s recollection of her mother’s terminal illness, her rapidly deteriorating health, and eventual death is heart-wrenching. Zauner conveys with devastating precision the grief, confusion, and hurt she experienced in the wake of her mother’s diagnosis. Interspersed throughout her memories of her mother’s illness are glimpses into her childhood and teenage years. In looking back to her youth Zauner examines her strained relationship with her mother, her evolving relationship to her Korean American identity, and the crucial role that food, in particular Korean food, played in her upbringing and adulthood. Food becomes a tether to her mother and her Korean heritage (speaking of which, there is this wonderful video starring Zauner & Maangchi ).
Zauner’s immersive storytelling, which is brimming with piercing insights into love, loss, and language, is utterly captivating.

Despite the harrowing subject matter, I found myself unwilling to interrupt my reading. In navigating her grief and her shifting perception of her mother Zauner presents her readers with some truly beautiful reflections on motherhood and daughterhood. I admire Zauner for being able to write with such lucidity about her grief and her mother’s illness. Zauner’s introspections also are worthy of praise as she is unflinching in her critiquing of her past-self.
Zauner’s examination of her often uneasy relationship with her mother underscores each episodic chapter within her memoir. In her recollection of her mother Zauner stresses how easy it is to mistake less ‘conventional’ demonstrations of love and affection as ‘lesser’.
Reading Crying in H Mart made my heart ache. Frank yet lyrical this is the kind of memoir that will leave a mark on its readers.

ARC provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

re-read: this was just as heart-wrenching this second time around. Yet, there is something about Zauner’s voice that I find so compelling that makes her memoir into an ultimately uplifting book. There were many instances where I was moved to tears: from reading of the tragic reality of helplessly witnessing your own mother’s deteriorating health, to those instances where food becomes a binding force. I loved the way Zauner wrote about the power of food, in particular those recipes that are part of our childhood or that remind us of our culture or of a specific person. I was reminded of the important role that food played in my family growing up, in particular during my stays with my grandparents. Even if I wasn’t familiar with the foods and ingredients populating Zauner’s story the vivid way in which she wrote about them—their aromas, their compatibility to each other, the places where you would find these—made it all too easy for me to visualise them. This memoir is a powerful ode to food and the bond between mothers & daughters, specifically Zauner’s immeasurably complex and fierce relationship with her mother.


my rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ½

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