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Trail of Crumbs: Hunger, Love, and the Search for Home Hardcover – January 8, 2008

3.7 out of 5 stars 94 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

On making Sunee's acquaintance in the introduction to this charming memoir, it's hard not to envy the young woman swimming laps in the pool overlooking the orchard of her petit ami's vast compound in the High Alps of Provence, but below the surface of this portrait is a turbulent quest for identity. Abandoned at age three in a Korean marketplace, Sunee is adopted by an American couple who raise her in New Orleans. In the 1990s she settles, after a fashion, in France with Olivier Baussan, a multimillionaire of epicurean tastes and—at least in her depiction—controlling disposition. She struggles to create a home for herself in the kitchen, cooking gargantuan meals for their large circle of friends, until her restive nature and Baussan's impatience with her literary ambitions compel her to move on. The gutsy Cajun and ethereal French recipes that serve as chapter codas are matched by engaging storytelling. Alas, for all Sunee's preoccupation with the geography of home, her insights on the topic are disappointingly slight, and the facile wrapup offered in the form of resolution seems a shortcut in a book that traverses so much rocky terrain. (Jan.)
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From Booklist

Twentysomething Sunee seems to have it all: beauty, talent, and a charming, wealthy, and very attentive French lover. So why is she so miserable? In this sensuous, somewhat self-indulgent memoir, Sunee, who was born in South Korea, recounts her tragic beginnings (her mother abandoned her when she was 3), her pleasant but far-from-perfect upbringing with her adoptive family in New Orleans, and her passionate love affair with 40-year-old French entrepreneur Olivier Baussan, who travels the globe and owns a sprawling residence in Provence. Whenever she feels lonely, panicked, or out of place, Sunee finds solace in preparing gourmet meals. But time in Olivier's kitchen brings her no closer to discovering who she really is. A trip to South Korea proves disastrous (Sunee has not a scrap of information about her parents or siblings). Meanwhile, Olivier becomes more controlling by the day. Sunee serves up mouthwatering descriptions of food and a generous helping of recipes. But her narrative, attempting to mix personal memoir and foodie lit, lacks the subtlety and sophistication of M. F. K. Fisher and Frances Mayes, both masters of the form. Block, Allison

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing; First Edition edition (January 8, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0446579769
  • ISBN-13: 978-0446579766
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1.4 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (94 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,628,651 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Kim Sunee can write well enough, and the premise of this book is intriguing. But over the course of the pages, I grew to find her less appealing, and found the book increasingly less engaging as the story seems to become repetitive and lose focus.

I think that primary allure of this book for the publisher was that the main character has a relationship with the Olivier Baussan, the founder of L'Occitaine. (If he'd been just a regular French businessman, I doubt this book would have received write ups in the New York Times.) He meets Kim, falls in love and brings her to Provence. There, she lives an enviable life that is the stuff of Peter Mayle books. They purchase an apartment in Paris and they take trips all over the world. For Kim, the sensitive poet, he even opens up a bookstore dedicated to poetry for her on the Ille St. Louis. But it isn't enough for Kim. In her 20s, she feels smothered by the domestic nature of her life and relationship with her older lover, who is portrayed as a controlling, if well meaning, mentor. Fair enough. I could sympathize that her life may have taken on the frame of a gilded cage.

Where this story becomes troubled is about one third of the way through, when the author moves away from Olivier to live in Paris on her own. For one, she's been a stepmother to his young daughter and she just walks out on her. From the book, it appears she never even sees the little girl again. I found this a surprisingly callous move from someone whose own issues come from being abandoned by her mother in Korea at age three. Olivier calls pleading for her return. Clearly, they continue to have a connection and Kim seems to enjoy his calls, but instead she dates a series of men. But then, she is enraged when she finds he takes on a lover.
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Format: Hardcover
It's not unusual for young, attractive, intelligent, and talented young women to enter relationships with older, successful, rich men. If the women are ambitious enough, they often get tired of the strictures in such relationships and leave to pursue self-directed lives. Kim Sunee's book is a variant on this kind of story with a number of added twists. An orphan abandoned in Korea at a young age, Kim was adopted by an American family and grew up in New Orleans. She cared about her parents and other family members but seemed destined to leave early and pursue an independent life. Her subsequent experiences in Europe make interesting reading, especially as her culinary expertise undergoes a transition from Cajun to Continental cuisine and recipes for various dishes are given at the end of each chapter. This is a book as much about love of eating as it is about love of men. Most of the book is devoted to her relationship of several years with an older, rich French businessman and their indulgent lifestyle, with homes in Paris and Provence. He has various plans for her life with him including purchase of a bookstore for poetry books, but eventually this confinement proves too much and a painful separation ensues.
Kim searches unsuccessfully for her past, her origin in Korea, and this theme appears repeatedly as her lack of firm identity continues and she tries to come to grips with never finding her natural parents. Her fruitless trip to Korea is a painful reminder. I found myself trying to imagine growing up with the pain of being an orphan, yet at the same time somewhat deplored her perhaps undeserved indulgent lifestyle in France.
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Format: Hardcover
OK, here's the deal. I get the quarterlife existential crisis, I do. But when you're suffering said crisis in Provence at your sugar daddy's villa, and you have no job, no responsibilities and no sense of humor--and then you write a mopey 350-page book about it--that crisis becomes unrelatable and obnoxious.

While she's sunning naked on Corsica, she feels isolated and unloved. OK, that's legit, but her vague misery, as conveyed through Sunee's admittedly excellent writing, means that I don't even get to enjoy Corsica by extension!

The sights and smells and tastes of Provence sound wonderful, but the extended descriptions of cunnilingus by her old, rich French boyfriendm and her interpersonal relationships in general are just tiresome, exhausting and as unfulfilling for the reader as they are for Sunee. As a rule, none of the humans in this memoir are drawn half as well as the dishes. You don't get a real sense of what the people look like, where they came from or what contributes to their various flavors.

I found myself sympathizing with the mother she finds so critical and cold. The mother obviously is trying but failing to convey the absence of substance and maturity in her daughter's life, but Sunee is so angry (she claims her sister is the angry one, but it's obviously her), that she ignores the warning entirely.

For that matter, I couldn't figure out for the life of me what she saw in any of her boyfriends other than privilege and heavy-handed, controlling gift-giving and empty promises of salvation. She was young. I get that, too.
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