Cover image for Chinhominey's secret : a novel
Chinhominey's secret : a novel
Kim, Nancy, 1966-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
Bridgehampton, N.Y. : Bridge Works Pub., [1999]

Physical Description:
212 pages ; 22 cm
Reading Level:
710 Lexile.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
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Item Holds
X Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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In this moving first novel, a Korean-American family faces not only intergenerational cultural conflicts between immigrant parents and their Americanized daughters, but also the results of a terrible prophecy, made by a fortune-teller 20 years earlier to Chinhominey, the long-estranged grandmother.

Author Notes

Nancy Kim, a corporate lawyer living in San Francisco, was born in Korea, raised in Los Angeles.

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

The power of self-fulfilling prophecies and multigenerational tensions are the themes of this novel. When a Korean grandmother, Chinhominey, comes to visit her transplanted son and his family, she recalls bitter memories of why the Choi family left Korea 20 years earlier. Yung Chul, a dutiful son, took his wife, baby daughter, and a child still in the womb to the U.S. to escape a prediction that the unborn daughter would die at an early age. A neglected marriage and estrangement from their Americanized children only adds to the weight of the family when Chinhominey visits. She senses the tension, the lack of communication with the children--the too-perfect Christina and the ill-fated Grace, whose every move brings anxiety to parents waiting for disaster. But language barriers and years of bitter resentment keep the family from sensing that the real purpose of Chinhominey's visit is her impending death and the need to confess to a lie meant to separate the couple long ago but one that cost Chinhominey her family instead. (Reviewed March 15, 1999)1882593286Vanessa Bush

Publisher's Weekly Review

In Kim's spare but affecting first novel, the Chois, a Korean-American family that has settled comfortably in West L.A., make peaceÄwith themselves and with a disturbing prophecy that has haunted them. In Korea 22 years before the opening of the contemporary story, Yung Chul's mother visits a fortune teller to learn the fate of her son's approaching marriage. The seer predicts that two daughters will be born to Yung Chul and Myung Hee, the eldest bringing joy and pride to the family and the youngest bearing tragedy. The newlyweds emigrate to the U.S. in the hopes of escaping this dire prediction; two daughters are indeed born to them, but their marriage becomes strained. When "Chinhominey" (Korean for paternal grandmother) finally comes to the States to visit her family, the old woman's superstitions and piercing wisdom initially prove disruptive. The generation conflict between immigrant parents and Americanized young adult children may have dimensions that Chinhominey can't parse, and effects she can't predict. Christina, a 24-year-old beauty, finds herself engaged to a violent and controlling young doctor. And Grace, who feels inferior to her sister in physical attributes, compensates by being a perfect student at UCLA. Grace is the liveliest character; her navigations of the college social scene and dating are humorous and endearing; she's ordinary, not cursed. Narrating with the simplicity of a folk tale, which sometimes prevents fully dimensional portrayal, Kim reveals the characters' stories in alternating chapters. Some segments flesh out the family's Korean past and are touched with magical moments: a dragonfly on a tether or a troll-like man in a cave of branches. A too tidy (yet tear-producing) ending resolved the Choi family's cross-cultural drama. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Set in Los Angeles, corporate lawyer Kim's first novel focuses on a "typical" Korean American family. Yung Chul Choi, an accountant, and his wife, Myung Hee, have two daughters. Their oldest, beautiful Christina, is the "perfect" daughter, with a good career as a teacher and a successful American boyfriend. Grace, a senior in high school, is extremely intelligent but the opposite of her sister in many ways. Much to Grace's dismay, she is often overshadowed and criticized for not being more like her older sister. When their Korean-speaking grandmother Chinhominey comes to stay, everything unravels. Kim's writing is clear and reads like a screenplay. Her characters are likable but not necessarily fully developed, and the plot itself is somewhat predictable, with unanswered gaps that may leave the reader wondering. Overall, however, this is a good choice for a growing contemporary Korean American audience. Public libraries serving this population may want to consider it.‘Shirley N. Quan, Orange Cty. P.L., Stanton, CA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

This debut novel reveals a writer with a strong sense of character and dialogue. The story concerns a Korean American family that must rethink its past and future when the grandmother, Chinhominey, comes to pay a visit--her first and last, as it turns out, since she is dying. Chinhominey's domination of her son and daughter-in-law--coupled with her obsession about a fortune-teller's dire predictions for the family--provides the primary source of conflict. The two granddaughters' romantic problems provide another. Issues of assimilation, ethnic identity, isolation, and determination of one's fate lie at the center of the novel. Though the characters are sympathetic and the story moves swiftly and economically, Kim provides scant development of the novel's many intertwining themes. What could be a rich and moving story only skims along the surface and comes to rest finally on a well-worn aphorism. For public collections only. J. Tharp; University of Wisconsin Colleges