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The Lucky Gourd Shop: A Novel Paperback – August 1, 2000


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 227 pages
  • Publisher: Macmurray & Beck Communication; 1st edition (August 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1878448013
  • ISBN-13: 978-1878448019
  • Product Dimensions: 0.9 x 6.3 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,570,219 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Joanna Scott's richly imagined The Lucky Gourd Shop begins in America, where the adoptive mother of three Korean children tries to find out more about their pasts. But where she fails, we succeed; the rest of the novel takes us back a generation, to a South Korea ravaged by years of poverty and war. There we meet Mi Sook--orphan, independent spirit, and, as soon becomes clear, the children's birth mother. Found abandoned in an alley and raised like a stray in the back room of a coffee shop, Mi Sook grows up pretty, bubbly, and happy enough, but still "that rare creature in her society, one who did not draw her sense of self from fixed relationships with others." In South Korea, of course, to be without fixed relationships--to be without family--is to live in a dangerous limbo, and soon enough Mi Sook finds trouble. Throughout the events that follow, Scott's powerful narrative voice never fails to convince. In her telling, this is a story without villains; even the violent husband is no monster when we learn the intense economic and cultural pressures with which he struggles. More to the point, it's also a story without victims; as in all great works of literature, Scott's characters are made of flesh and blood, capable of agency and action and especially mistakes. This first novel succeeds on a number of levels, as an imaginative leap between nations and generations and as a snapshot of a culture in transition. Most of all, however, The Lucky Gourd Shop is a precise, affecting, and unsentimental portrait of Mi Sook herself, of hardships endured without knowing they're hardships and choices that are scarcely choices at all. --Chloe Byrne

From Library Journal

This tale of a ravaged contemporary South Korea quickly shatters the reader's complacency. Scott, author of Pursuing Pauline, a story of women in revolution, has written a riveting, compelling, and disturbing novel. The main characters are three Korean children who first we meet as Americanized teenagers searching for their heritage. We are quickly taken back to Seoul ten years earlier, where the story of Li Na, Dae Young, and Tae Hee unfolds. Remembering that this story takes place in contemporary times is often a difficult task because of the primitive surroundings and starvation fare. Mi Sook, the children's mother, doomed by circumstances to fail, has to abandon the children to an orphanage where they were found by their American family. But there is more to the story, and it soon becomes evident that the children's history will remain a mystery. Scott's descriptive talent is enormous; at times you wish it were not so good. Recommended for all venues.DPatricia Gulian, South Portland, ME
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

More About the Author

Joanna Catherine Scott (1943--) was born in England during an air raid over London, raised in Australia by a rabidly religious mother and a phlegmatic engineer father, married way too young, divorced, fell in love again and came with her American husband to live in the US where, aside from a couple of years in the Philippines, she has lived below the Mason Dixon line ever since. Her five novels and oral history collection have all been based on true life stories, giving voice to the voiceless. Her poetry tells stories too. She has six children, three Australian and three adopted Korean, as well as a young man whom she met while he was on death row whom she regards as her seventh child. A Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellow, she is a graduate of Adelaide and Duke Universities and lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Her website is www.joannacatherinescott.com.

Customer Reviews

The characters portray the immense cultural and economic pressures which exist within their society.
Terry Keen
Characters come alive with Scott's detailed descriptions of societal and cultural circumstances and her ability to capture complex emotions in her writing.
"mrim"
Once I started "The Lucky Gourd Shop" I was unable to stop reading until the book was finished.
Audrey Collins

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Pennsylvania Pat on February 7, 2001
Format: Paperback
After reading book reviews in The New York Times and The Christian Science Monitor applauding Joanna Catherine Scott's book "The Lucky Gourd Shop" I had to get my own copy. For once I wasn't disappointed. Scott's literary style is brilliant, one that could only be accomplished by a gifted poet. Her words flow like verse set to music. The characters, when introduced, fly from the pages and become real people with a sometimes sad, but often enough uplifting, tale to tell. I love books that take the reader to a different place, one that would be impossible to get to. The Lucky Gourd Shop did that for me. Scott introduces the reader to a South Korea, desolated by war, overrun by poverty. Only the author's personal background in Asia and her passionate research with attention to the most minute of details could have accomplished the presentation of a place so different from the one we inhabit. At times on the journey through "The Lucky Gourd Shop" it's difficult to comprehend that this place exists in our world. Scott's characterizations are outstanding. I will always remember that grandmother, plugging away, never giving up, and trying to do the best with what she has for her family. The little boy, not really a child, watching over his sisters, grubbing for food and surviving in his meager existence is another unforgettable, real person. The wedding shop owner brings to mind the indomitable Asian women running businesses in our neighborhoods. The husband, though a drunk and a wife-beater, grabs the reader's sympathy because of the cultural burden imposed on him by the narrow society he occupies. Then there's Mi Song, who couldn't comprehend how many times she had been "found", or passed from one person to another since her early abandonment in back of the Seoul coffee shop.Read more ›
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 13, 2002
Format: Paperback
The book's opening chapter starts out great: I would have loved to have heard more about the three children. But once the fictional reimagining begins, I became incredulous. Scott knows nothing about a real Korean family and makes disturbing generalizations that wouldn't bother me if it weren't for the fact that many adoptive parents will be reading, and believing, this book.
First, the notion that a young girl could be orhpaned in the back of a shop and "raise herself" through a succession of "Ama's" (Scott's mistransliteration for mother, "Omma") is preposterously unbelievable. The depiction of this Korean girl as a primitive savage who views TV as "people inside boxes" like Tarzan meeting civilization is outrageously offensive. I won't even go into the depiction of the father as a cruel Oriental patriarch. But her assertion that Korean women are passive, servile slaves to men, who don't even have a name except in relation to her role as mother is distorted and wrong. Men are often addressed as "So-and-so's father" (my own father, for e.g., Jeong-suk Appa) just as women are!; Koreans often do NOT address each other by their personal names but by their relationships: uncle, teacher, sister, etc. But Scott takes the tag of the "mother of such child" and makes it seemas if this is due to sexism in Korean culture. This only perpetuates the worst stereotypes of Korea and makes adoptive parents feel better for having "rescued" Korean babies from that terrible country. I feel sorry for adoptees who read this and will grow and up and feel self-hatred for their horrible country of origin. Does anybody want to talk about America's responsibility for the devastation that took place in Korea that necessitated international adoption?
Read more ›
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 17, 2001
Format: Paperback
All the positive reviews are true. It's captivating and beautifully written, what there is of it. But the story of the three children's search for their birthparents is hastily glued on to the front of the book. As many reviewers mentioned, the story isn't about them at all. It's about the birthparents who they will presumably never learn about. Why do that without telling us anything about the lives those children ended up having, especially since the older ones remember their difficult beginning? The ending seemed abrupt and disappointing, as it left me with many questions about those children and how this beginning affected their lives. It seemed like half a book, and the other half promised to be even more interesting.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 27, 2002
Format: Paperback
Joanna Scott's richly imagined The Lucky Gourd Shop begins in America, where the adoptive mother of three Korean children tries to find out more about their pasts. But where she fails, we succeed; the rest of the novel takes us back a generation, to a South Korea ravaged by years of poverty and war. There we meet Mi Sook--orphan, independent spirit, and, as soon becomes clear, the children's birth mother. Found abandoned in an alley and raised like a stray in the back room of a coffee shop, Mi Sook grows up pretty, bubbly, and happy enough, but still "that rare creature in her society, one who did not draw her sense of self from fixed relationships with others." In South Korea, of course, to be without fixed relationships--to be without family--is to live in a dangerous limbo, and soon enough Mi Sook finds trouble.
Throughout the events that follow, Scott's powerful narrative voice never fails to convince. In her telling, this is a story without villains; even the violent husband is no monster when we learn the intense economic and cultural pressures with which he struggles. More to the point, it's also a story without victims; as in all great works of literature, Scott's characters are made of flesh and blood, capable of agency and action and especially mistakes. This novel succeeds on a number of levels, as an imaginative leap between nations and generations and as a snapshot of a culture in transition. Most of all, however, The Lucky Gourd Shop is a precise, affecting, and unsentimental portrait of Mi Sook herself, of hardships endured without knowing they're hardships and choices that are scarcely choices at all.
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