The Lucky Gourd Shop: A Novel

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9781878448019: The Lucky Gourd Shop: A Novel
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In this brave and affecting novel, the mother of three adopted Korean children tries to help them discover their birth parents. But what factual information she's provided doesn't coincide with what the oldest child remembers - and knows is true. It is painfully clear that the children's history is lost.

From this powerful beginning, Joanna Catherine Scott takes us back to Korea and the history these will never know. And she tells the heartbreaking story of the young woman who was their mother, whom circumstance betrays.

The Lucky Gourd Shop is a tapestry of voices and histories, a gentle reminder that we are more than where we began; that the world is everywhere uneven in it sympathies; that the compassion we engender and the love we inspire are in part ours to create. It is a work of honesty, empathy and great power - a captivating tale of the human spirit.

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Review:

Joanna Scott's richly imagined The Lucky Gourd Shop begins in America, where the adoptive mother of three Korean children tries to find out more about their pasts. But where she fails, we succeed; the rest of the novel takes us back a generation, to a South Korea ravaged by years of poverty and war. There we meet Mi Sook--orphan, independent spirit, and, as soon becomes clear, the children's birth mother. Found abandoned in an alley and raised like a stray in the back room of a coffee shop, Mi Sook grows up pretty, bubbly, and happy enough, but still "that rare creature in her society, one who did not draw her sense of self from fixed relationships with others." In South Korea, of course, to be without fixed relationships--to be without family--is to live in a dangerous limbo, and soon enough Mi Sook finds trouble. Throughout the events that follow, Scott's powerful narrative voice never fails to convince. In her telling, this is a story without villains; even the violent husband is no monster when we learn the intense economic and cultural pressures with which he struggles. More to the point, it's also a story without victims; as in all great works of literature, Scott's characters are made of flesh and blood, capable of agency and action and especially mistakes. This first novel succeeds on a number of levels, as an imaginative leap between nations and generations and as a snapshot of a culture in transition. Most of all, however, The Lucky Gourd Shop is a precise, affecting, and unsentimental portrait of Mi Sook herself, of hardships endured without knowing they're hardships and choices that are scarcely choices at all. --Chloe Byrne

About the Author:

Joanna Catherine Scott was born during an air raid over London, raised in Australia, and migrated to the United States in 1976 where she took her graduate degree from Duke University. She is the author of Indochina's Refugees: Oral Histories from Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, the Vietnam war novel Charlie and the Children, and Pursuing Pauline, a novel of the women's revolution. Her poetry collection Birth Mother, serves as lyric counterpart to The Lucky Gourd Shop, telling the story of how she and her husband came to adopt three orphans from Korea.

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