Book Review: Trail of Crumbs by Kim Sunee

A coworker popped into my office with a book that she recently finished. She randomly picked it out at the bookstore; she said she reads voraciously which is reflected in her vocabulary (or should I be fancy and say lexicon?). When she learned of my adoption, she was thrilled to let me borrow this book.  The memoir, entitled Trail of Crumbs, is about Kim Sunee’s journey of love, loss, self-discovery, and the flavors of life. I was excited because I love memoirs – trying to get into people’s heads. People can talk forever about themselves and I tend to think whatever they say is relevant and I care. Maybe that’s why I’m a good listener If you plan on reading it one day, I wouldn’t read this post because I might spoil the book.


Trail of Crumbs: Hunger, Love, and the Search for Home

She was found on the streets South Korea with a handful of food. The four-year-old was picked up by the police, placed in an orphanage, and shortly was adopted into a New Orleans family. She recalls some vague flashbacks about her brother and some familiar smells of her country of origin but those memories were buried deep down with little chance of retrieval as so typical of children who are adopted – even at older ages.

Although everything changed – her identity, language, family – one thing remained the same: the spiciness in her diet. Instead of fire red kimchi, she’d eat hot cuisine in Louisiana. It’s no wonder why she became a food connoisseur – quite literally. She is currently a food editor of a magazine and she appeared as a judge on Iron Chef America. She would describe food in paragraphs – no wonder why I found myself hungry at the end of each chapter. To top it off, she included a few relevant recipes in each chapter.

Confused with her identity in America, she escaped to study in France for a semester. After falling in love with the European lifestyle and flavors, she moved to Stockholm, Sweden for a few years to begin her 10-year European journey. She met a French man and they became absolutely infatuated with each other. They flew to each other to spend a few nights together and when they were not together, they talked on the phone in French, a language in which she became fluent. Eventually they became serious and moved in together in Provence, France.  This was no ordinary man. He was Olivier Baussan, the loaded founder L’Occitane. I was initially disgusted and thought that it was superficial; he was older, established, and had money while she was young and exotic. From the way she wrote about them, however, they really did love each other.

She was adopted into yet another family, another society. She escaped her American life to live for “better opportunities” just as she left Korea for the same reasons. Her and Olivier traveled the world and lived lavish lives. She served as the interim mother of his daughter and she entertained Olivier’s guests with food and jokes. He even opened up her very own poetry shop in Paris; a dream of the young aspiring writer.

Didn’t her life seem perfect? It did, on the surface. She ignored her family back in America (sort of) and ignored to find herself yet again. She kept escaping, running away thinking that her new life would be better. She was happy with Olivier but it was a blind happiness. It relates to how adoptees are always told how great it is to be so lucky. Now we have so many opportunities. Don’t get me wrong, I am very positive about it and am very grateful for everything! But not everyone thinks that way nor should we be obligated to. I still don’t think it’s nice to ignore the fact that we had past lives that were taken away from us and forced to abandon. I don’t think it’s nice to say we should feel this way because we were ‘saved’. I don’t think it’s nice that now the people with the same blood generally don’t like us nor accept us. Nowadays, poverty isn’t the issue of adoption in Korea; it’s the society’s lack of support for single mothers. Then again, who am I to say whose societal values are right? That’s just being ethnocentric. Anyway….

Her thoughts, interests, skills, personality, and aspirations couldn’t be different from me. Yet I completely connected with her on certain levels. She articulated ideas in ways that I could never describe in words. Sometimes I feel like I idealize Korea and think that everything is going to be great when I escape to live there. I still have hard feelings toward the culture but I still love it at the same time. I am happy with my life right now but I do need a change. I just want to live in another country for the sake of living in another country. I want to really see how my life could have been so different had I been born under slightly different circumstances. If I was a boy, I would have definitely stayed there. If I had been born a few days later or earlier, maybe I would have been sent to Norway or Australia.

My friend, Johan, said he admires that I am so open in my blog. I was a little surprised because I try to avoid getting too personal especially since I am usually a private person but I guess it is different when they can’t see me saying these things. I find it therapeutic though. Anyway, I recently got a call from the social worker with whom I have been corresponding.

The social worker I met with in Korea told her to tell me that my story in the file I saw this summer was not entirely true because after my friend and I left that day, she contacted the police in Cheonan to ask about my parents.

Then she told me the real story. My birth parents are still together and I have three older sisters.

I thought it was good news at first but then after thinking about it more, I don’t know how I feel about it. I hate being lied to in the first place and I still don’t even know what the truth is.

I wrote a letter to my b-parents which is going to be translated and sent to them so I guess we wait and see. I am prepared for the worst. I wouldn’t feel hurt if nothing happens. I would just feel awful if I never even tried. I don’t think I have that gap in my soul that I need to feel but maybe I’m being idealistic like usual. I really want to meet my three full sisters! They know about me, too.

Back to the memoir. I loved Sunee’s writing style and choice of words, but she was so confused about everything and it was apparent in her circular words. She was repetitive in themes and not really making progress as far as finding herself and her identity. It scared me a little because I thought she would. Hopefully things have changed since then. She seems like she’s a well established professional working in her tools of interest – words and food. I would recommend it.

UPDATE: I have since met my birth family and it went well.

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