The Lucky Gourd Shop tells a modern, realistic tale of how three Korean siblings come to be adopted into an American family. The narrative voice of Joanna Catherine Scott and the intriguing structure of her novel combine in an irresistible concoction that crosses cultural and generational boundaries. Scott uses her acclaimed poet's eye to enhance the rich imagery of Korea as she deliberately draws the reader into her lilting narrative.

The delicate issues of abandoned children and their birth parents are familiar ground for Scott, who has adopted three Korean children. The Lucky Gourd Shop has a lyrical counterpart in Scott's award-winning collection of poems, Birth Mother. She has written about Southeast Asia as well in her collection of testimonials, Indochina's Refugees: Oral Histories from Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam. Structurally, The Lucky Gourd Shop is a story within a story. It begins in an American kitchen with a disappointing letter from Seoul inquiries about the children's birth family have resulted in only a handful of skewed facts. Scott responds to the disappointment felt by the children and their foster mother by opening up the world of Seoul, Korea, and imagining their birth mother's story. The reader is allowed to glimpse what the children will unfortunately never know about their parents and heritage.

Each adult character in the novel contributes somewhat to the children's destiny, and Scott is careful to paint each parent in a sympathetic, yet realistic light. Mi Sook, their uneducated mother, is torn between her immediate responsibilities to her family and her long-term dream of financial security. Kun Soo, their laborer father, generates familial chaos through his need for sons and self-worth. Ultimately, the reader is forced to wonder how the children would react to the story of their parents if the beauty and sadness of the story could ever translate into forgiveness for being left behind. In The Lucky Gourd Shop, Scott has revealed herself as a compassionate foster-mother as well as a fresh and compelling author.

Amy Ryce writes from Charlottesville, Virginia.

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