9 Apr 2011



The illegitimate daughter of a peasant and an American GI, Elizabeth Kim spent her early years as a social outcast in her village in the Korean countryside. Ostracized by their family and neighbours, she and her mother were regularly pelted with stones on their way home from the rice fields. Yet there was a tranquil happiness in the intense bond between mother and daughter. Until the day that Elizabeth's grandfather and uncle came to punish her mother for the dishonour she had brought on the family, and executed her in front of her daughter.

Elizabeth was dumped in an orphanage in Seoul . After some time, she was lucky enough to be adopted by an American couple. But when she arrived in America she found herself once again surrounded by fanaticism and prejudice.

Elizabeth's mother had always told her life was made up of ten thousand sorrows, and, supported by her loving daughter, and by a return to her Buddhist faith, she finally found a way to saviour those joys, as well as the courage to exorcise the demons of her past.
...... outer back cover.

FIRST SENTENCE (Chapter 1):- On the night Omma died, it seemed as if the land of Morning Calm held its breath in disbelief at the horror visited upon its children.

MEMORABLE MOMENT (Page 87):- Fear ruled my life. I was afraid of my parents. I was afraid of God and of hell. I was afraid of the kids at school who whispered about me and giggled. I was afraid I'd get sent back to the orphanage. I was afraid of going to sleep. I was afraid of the glow-in-the-dark head of Christ wearing the crown of thorns hanging in the hallway.

KEEP IT OR NOT?:- Not. I'll be passing this on to a friend who has a particular interest in this genre.

Here I again, the 6th time I've attempted this review, it really is proving so difficult to put my thoughts down without sounding somewhat callous.

To be honest I found myself questioning several of the statements that Elizabeth made in the book and would question her recall of several events. I also cannot understand her adult self's preoccupation with certain matters which, along with her belief that "all Korean mothers are amazing examples of uncomplaining self-sacrifice", I found frustrating.

That said, I had a great deal of empathy with the child Elizabeth who grew up not knowing who she really was, hating the way she looked, believing that "Whether in Korea or America (her) face was wrong. In Korea (her) eyes were too American; in America they were too Asian" and, "mimicking  without understanding a music (her adopted father insist she learn the piano), a language and a life that was not (her) own."

Though told mainly through Elizabeth's words and poetry  there are also occasional insights from her daughter Leigh which I find just as telling and in some aspects possibly more truthful. Ten Thousand Sorrows is an interesting read in that, if nothing else, it is a great argument for those who believe children should only be adopted by families who share the same ethnicity, religious and cultural backgrounds.

THE 35th book read in my 100+ Reading Challenge, this was a charity shop buy.


Karen said...

That's too bad - it sounds like it could have been a very powerful story.

Misha said...

The synopsis made it sound like a thought-provoking story. I am sorry that it turned out to be disappointing.

iamjen said...

i like korean stories, i remember reading one in college but couldnt remember the title.

i think the story would have been interesting to me if not for the "execution of mother in front of her daughter". since i became a mommy, i cannot deal with tragedy of motherhood or death of children.

Tomz said...

Seems that its a great novel..
which is the one u r reading now?

Vivienne said...

Sorry you didn't really enjoy it. Not my type of book either.

Dorte H said...

I think I might find her story interesting, but not the style. Well, I suppose it is only natural for her to glorify Korean mothers.

Suko said...

Ten Thousand Sorrows sounds like a very sad memoir. Hopefully, there are some rays of light present.

BookQuoter said...

Thanks, I too shall pass!

Melissa (Books and Things) said...

Still curious about this one. Oh I disagree about children being adopted in the same cultural ethnicity. In this case you'd have to make sure one half is Korean and the other white. Not exactly a recipe for a successful adoption. So, I guess I'm curious as to why her adopted parents weren't helping her find herself. Any child should be encouraged to be their true selves even if that rarely happens. Interesting review. Got me thinking. :)

Mamakucingbooks said...

I think I will like this story though it would make me feel depressed

Betty Manousos@ Cut and Dry said...

Who would have thought it would turn out to be disappointing.
I shall pass, too.

Big big hugs!
Betty xx

purplume said...

Thank you for your thoughtful comments.