“Trail of Crumbs” by Kim Sunee

By Jae-Ha Kim
Chicago Sun-Times
January 13, 2008

With Trail of Crumbs: Hunger, Love, and the Search for Home (Grand Central, 370 pages, $24.99), first-time author Kim Sunee writes a fascinating account of her life thus far. Abandoned as a child in South Korea, Sunee remembers telling the policemen who found her that her name was Chong Ae Kim, she was 3 years old and her mother — who had left her with a small fistful of food — would be coming back for her.

Later adopted by a young American couple that would take her home to New Orleans, Sunee learned the art of preparing delicious meals from her beloved grandfather.

Like Frances Mayes’ Under the Tuscan Sun, Trail of Crumbs is vivid, rich and intoxicating, both for the stories Sunee tells and the exotic recipes that conclude many of the chapters. As she travels the world (Europe, Asia, South America), first for school and then to move in with her lover, Sunee absorbs each country’s culture by recreating some of its best-known dishes.

Much of the memoir deals with her relationship with Olivier Bussan, the French founder of L’Occitane. It has always been my belief that when it comes to relationships, there are His and Her truths, with reality lying somewhere in between. Nonetheless, it isn’t implausible to believe that much of what Sunee says is true. When they met, she was in her early 20s. He was almost twice her age, the father of a small child and separated from a wife he was reticent to divorce. He believed Sunee would be happy ensconced in his world, but she knew there had to be more.

Without becoming maudlin, Sunee also touches on what adoptees face in a country where they look different from their parents and often endure insensitive remarks from people who don’t understand the longing children may feel for the birth families they can no longer remember.

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