A bittersweet coming-of-age debut novel set in the Korean community in Toronto in the 1980s.
This haunting coming-of-age story, told through the eyes of a rebellious young girl, vividly captures the struggles of families caught between two cultures in the 1980s. Family secrets, a lost sister, forbidden loves, domestic assaults—Mary discovers as she grows up that life is much more complicated than she had ever imagined. Her secret passion for her English teacher is filled with problems and with the arrival of a promising Korean suitor, Joon-Ho, events escalate in ways that she could never have imagined, catching the entire family in a web of deceit and violence.
A unique and imaginative debut novel, Kay’s Lucky Coin Variety evocatively portrays the life of a young Korean Canadian girl who will not give up on her dreams or her family.
Choi's debut novel is an enjoyable coming-of-age story that celebrates the triumphs and mourns the losses in the life of a young woman finding her way as a Korean immigrant in Toronto in the 1980s. Six-year-old Yu-Rhee is renamed Mary to comply with a school board policy intended to help immigrant children fit in better. As a teen, she struggles to accept her family responsibilities working in her parents' convenience store, maintaining her Korean identity, accomplishing everything expected of her. She begins to assert her independence in her aspiration to be a writer. While in university she becomes involved with a Korean student and with her former high school English teacher. The novel explores some cultural and racial issues, but it is focused mainly on Mary's personal journey to establish an identity that balances her Korean roots with new growth that sprouts in a new country. Along the way, she begins to understand more about her family, particularly who her mother is and what she sacrificed. These are now familiar themes in the stories of families immigrating to Canada from diverse places, but aside from that conventionality, Choi's novel is a gratifying read, a story clearly and honestly told.