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From the bestselling author of All You Can Ever Know comes a searing memoir of class, inequality, 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.
When Nicole Chung graduated from high school, she 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 a sense of community she had always craved as an Asian American adoptee – 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 financial instability and lack of access to healthcare contributed to his premature 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 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 tragic inequalities in American society.
Praise for A Living Remedy
“A Living Remedy is a bouquet of feeling—Nicole Chung weaves a groundbreaking narrative steeped in love, humor, the infinitude of memory, and the essentiality of community. Chung approaches the kaleidoscope of grief from its many angles, excavating its complexity with heart and candor; but Chung’s prose also soothes, uncovering hidden corners of the heart and its many permutations. A Living Remedy is elegiac and heart-expanding, a memoir that’s both an exploration of loss and a beacon for moving forward. We couldn’t be luckier to have this gift of a book.” —Bryan Washington, author of Memorial
“This astounding and immensely moving memoir is a gift. It is a chance to think about family, mortality, love, and grief. It is a chance to confront the broken healthcare system we live within. From the most intimate to the most public, A Living Remedy holds gem-like questions about all that matters.” —Megha Majumdar, author of A Burning
“A Living Remedy is a book about love, loss, leaving home, and finding home. Nicole Chung has a rare precious gift: the ability to tell an intimate story with vast social implications. It is a book that honors the way families are made through a collage of close encounters and shared struggles. Brimming with insight about class, race, identity, and politics, A Living Remedy is tender and observant rather than dogmatic. It will move and transform readers with its beauty, spirituality, and wisdom.” —Imani Perry, author of South to America
“An unforgettable, transformative read. Nicole Chung shows the deep pits of grief and the messy reality of life after loss, revealing pain, financial insecurity, and the failures of our country’s healthcare system with tender lucidity. This is a profound memoir that haunted and nourished me. I cried. I ached. I saw a path forward.” —Crystal Hana Kim, author of If You Leave Me