A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK
Named a Best Book of the Year by: Time * Harper’s Bazaar * Esquire * Booklist * USA Today * Elle * Good Housekeeping * New York Times
From the bestselling author of ALL YOU CAN EVER KNOW comes a searing memoir of family, class and grief—a daughter’s search to understand the lives her adoptive parents led, the life she forged as an adult, and the lives she’s lost.
In this country, unless you attain extraordinary wealth, you will likely be unable to help your loved ones in all the ways you’d hoped. You will learn to live with the specific, hollow guilt of those who leave hardship behind, yet are unable to bring anyone else with them.
Nicole Chung couldn’t hightail it out of her overwhelmingly white Oregon hometown fast enough. As a scholarship student at a private university on the East Coast, no longer the only Korean she knew, she found community and a path to the life she'd long wanted. But the middle class world she begins to raise a family in – where there are big homes, college funds, nice vacations – looks very different from the middle class world she thought she grew up in, where paychecks have to stretch to the end of the week, health insurance is often lacking, and there are no safety nets.
When her father dies at only sixty-seven, killed by diabetes and kidney disease, Nicole feels deep grief as well as rage, knowing that years of precarity and lack of access to healthcare contributed to his early death. And then the unthinkable happens – less than a year later, her beloved mother is diagnosed with cancer, and the physical distance between them becomes insurmountable as COVID-19 descends upon the world.
Exploring the enduring strength of family bonds in the face of hardship and tragedy, A Living Remedy examines what it takes to reconcile the distance between one life, one home, and another – and sheds needed light on some of the most persistent and grievous inequalities in American society.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
The American Dream hits a roadblock in this timely, emotional memoir by Nicole Chung, author of the bestseller All You Can Ever Know, which detailed her search for the birth family that put her up for adoption. Growing up in Oregon, Chung had working-class adoptive parents who protected her from the realities of her family’s financial hardships. But working as a magazine editor in Washington, DC, Chung became all too aware of their struggles, forced to watch from afar as their wellbeing deteriorated due to their lack of health insurance. Chung’s passionate exploration of class in America is hard-hitting and deeply personal, full of observations informed by thorough research as well as her own experiences. A Living Remedy makes a compelling and emotional argument for changing the way America practices medicine.
Chung (All You Can Ever Know) couches the evolution of the bond between parent and child in the struggles of class and loss in this melancholy memoir. Born "severely premature" in Seattle to Korean immigrants who "did not believe they could afford to raise a medically complex child," Chung was adopted by a white couple from rural Oregon who had "little guidance from the child welfare system and no model for how to raise a Korean child." Her adoptive parents lived paycheck to paycheck, which they tried to hide from Chung, who likewise hid the trauma of "racial isolation as an adoptee" growing up where others "let me know that I was not wanted." She later attended college on a scholarship, married, had children, and moved to D.C. for grad school. Loaded down with student debt, Chung was unable to help her parents as their health failed: her uninsured father couldn't afford treatment for his diabetes, and her mother died of ovarian cancer, which had Chung "falling, tumbling through empty air, with nowhere to land," during the pandemic, necessitating her to attend the funeral virtually. Powerfully rendered scenes illuminate this quiet polemic against a dysfunctional healthcare system, hidden poverty, and racism, though the narrative stumbles toward the end as Chung meanders through scattered reflections. There's great emotional power here, if an imperfect execution.