Book Review: All You Can Ever Know: A Memoir

All You Can Ever Know: A Memoir by Nicole Chung

Nicole Chung has written a contemplative, thoughtful book outlining her experiences as a cross racial adoptee. 

Chung was a premature baby born in Seattle in 1981, with enough issues related to her early birth to put her in the neonatal unit for a month. Her Korean born parents made the decision to offer her up for adoption. Her situation came to the attention of her eventual adoptive parents in Oregon through a friend in Seattle. The couple, white Catholics, were unable to have children of their own and welcomed the chance to adopt. The process went quickly, and they were able to gain custody within a month, with the adoption finalized within the year.

At home her new parents were of the firm belief that race didn't matter, and because of that belief they didn't identify a need to ground Nicole in her Korean heritage. As a child Chung was the only Asian in her class at school, and suffered the taunts of her mostly white classmates because she was different. While she loved her adopted parents she always felt out of place. 

She was born at a time when the vast majority of adoptions were "closed", meaning that the birth parents life story and records were sealed off from the adoptive family and child after the adoption process. For much of her young life Chung had no legal path to finding her birth family. Nor did she let herself feel that finding them was necessary or something she wanted to do, despite those out of place feelings.

It wasn't until she was married and expecting her first child that Chung began the process to find her birth parents. By that time the legal situation around adoptions had changed and she was able to find an intermediary to help her. What she finds is that the reality of her birth family's situation wasn't the simple story she'd been told as a child, and that finding her birth mother wouldn't be the happy reunion she had come to hope it would be. The later chapters deal with her growing relationships with her biological family.

There are parts of this story that will definitely tug at your emotions. Chung is completely open about her life and her families, and you feel that she has really let you into her story. But the quiet power of her narrative is diminished by a repetitive and overlong telling. I give All You Can Ever Know Three Stars ⭐⭐⭐.

NOTE: I listened to the audiobook with narration by Janet Song, who has narrated several books across multiple genres. Her steady, gentle narration added to the quiet and contemplative feel of the story.

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Title: All You Can Ever Know: A Memoir
Author: Nicole Chung
Publisher: HighBridge Audio
Publish Date: October 2 2018
ISBN-13: 978-1684414017
List Price: $22.99 (as of 12/5/2021 on