Book review: All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung

*I received this book from the distributor in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: All You Can Ever Know

Author: Nicole Chung

Publisher: Catapult

Publication Date: October 2, 2018

ISBN: 9781936787975

Synopsis from Goodreads:
What does it mean to lose your roots—within your culture, within your family—and what happens when you find them? Nicole Chung was born severely premature, placed for adoption by her Korean parents, and raised by a white family in a sheltered Oregon town. From early childhood, she heard the story of her adoption as a comforting, prepackaged myth. She believed that her biological parents had made the ultimate sacrifice in the hopes of giving her a better life; that forever feeling slightly out of place was simply her fate as a transracial adoptee. But as she grew up—facing prejudice her adoptive family couldn’t see, finding her identity as an Asian American and a writer, becoming ever more curious about where she came from—she wondered if the story she’d been told was the whole truth. With warmth, candor, and startling insight, Chung tells of her search for the people who gave her up, which coincided with the birth of her own child. 


This memoir is the incredibly moving story of Nicole Chung’s journey towards self-discovery as she learns to uncover the mysteries of her adoption and her birth parents. Adopted as a baby, she–of Korean descent–was raised in a white household that often took a “colourblind” stance to her ethnicity and her differences. She was well-loved in her adoptive family, but she was never given an opportunity to know her own culture or to understand her heritage. Her birth parents did the best they could with the knowledge and resources they had, but now as an adult, Nicole is able to take her journey into her own hands to learn her truth.

This story is full of pain and loss, but it’s also full of deep compassion and understanding. Nicole, for all that she lost in her life, has a heart that is full to the brim with empathy and love for those in her life. She holds no grudges and bears no judgement. I love the authors honest depiction of her own understanding of adoption–the movement from the words she believes she’s supposed to say and the feelings of acceptance that she’s told she should feel juxtaposed with her true feelings of confusion and loss that she keeps buried within her. Through her exploration into her history, Nicole is able to sort through these feelings and to bring those she cares about in her life. Although she worries about hurting those who love her most, she is able to navigate this tumultuous journey in a way that makes sense for her that is open and honest.

Nicole’s writing is beautiful and relatable. For anyone raised by their birth parents, her story will open readers’ eyes to all that they take for granted and all that they have been blessed with. Her memoir invites readers in to glimpse and perhaps understand the conflicting feelings within adoptive families. It’s a place of deep and boundless love, but also of struggle and lack of complete understanding. Nicole acknowledges that not every adopted individual feels the way she does and that each person’s journey is their own to navigate as they understand best. In this, she is so generous and accepting of difference, creating a platform for others to share their stories openly.

I would highly recommend this book. I enjoyed it greatly and would read it again without hesitation. 🙂

Published by wornpagesandink

Hi! I'm Jaaron. I'm a book-obsessed blogger, writer, reader, coffee-drinker, and dog-lover. I have a B.A.H. in English Literature and a post-graduate diploma in Book and Magazine publishing. I've been fortunate to have worked in both trade and educational publishing. If you have any recommendations for excellent reads, let me know!

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