Frances Park’s parents arrived in the United States decades before the mass migration of Koreans. Her background and memory are rich with unique histories that work their way into That Lonely Spell. A mosaic of previously published essays, this memoir reveals—with heartbreak and humor—one woman’s passion, insights, and love for the family and friends who graced her life. A singular voice.
“Unlike most Korean Americans, who emigrated after the late 1960s, Park’s father was part of a small wave of Korean scholars who left shortly after the Korean War ended. In this memoir in essays…the author describes the eagerness with which her cosmopolitan father—a Harvard-educated economist who worked for the World Bank—embraced the “American way of life” for his family. Park adeptly captures little details of a bygone era: her father’s love for Reader’s Digest, references to Camel cigarettes or Saturday night barbecues, and “the sweet stuff of life: Juicy Fruit gum, butterscotch candies, 7-Ups.” Although her sketches of ordinary life are engaging, the narrative is less a memoir of the times, or cultural identity, than a story of loss. At its heart, this is an elegy to Park’s father, who died when the author was in her early 20s. These essays, she notes, are “love letters to my dad and his life, both glorious and cheated.” Though Park writes about other loved ones—her mother, a childhood friend, an old sweetheart, her ex-husband—all ultimately echo her defining loss, the beloved patriarch taken too young. Recalling the death of a beloved dog, the author writes, “You know Jefferson, I never got to say good-bye to my dad; he was here then gone forever. So, despite the tragic hour, I’m grateful I could say good-bye to you.” She revisits her last moments with her father repeatedly. Had she known he was near death, “I would have…grabbed my father so hard he could’ve never left this earth, not even if God, the angels, and fate willed it.” Yet despite the deep dive into grief, Park’s tender, self-aware voice is never maudlin, and her journey is relatable.
Heart and humanity shine through in essays that speak to a fierce love of family and longing for home.”
“Frances Park’s haunted essays are part elegiac after party, part Coen brothers whispers. But it’s her mother and lost-too-soon father that steal that show.”
—Richard Peabody, editor of Gargoyle Magazine, author of Guinness on the Quay
“The ferocious energy of Frances Park’s essays… captivated me from beginning to end.” —R.L. Maizes, author of Other People’s Pets and We Love Anderson Cooper
“That Lonely Spell has cast its blissful spell on me… each story is heart-tugging and painfully honest – with heaps of humor throughout.”
—Scott Saalman, columnist, author of What Are You Going to Write About When I’m Gone?
“In this rich and artful memoir-in-essays, Park’s loves and losses become the reader’s as well.”
—Elizabeth McKenzie, author of The Portable Veblen
“Frances Park writes so elegantly about family and personal history, and how that history gradually becomes beautiful, monumental myth.”
—Ben Nussbaum, editor of Spirituality & Health
“Frances Park’s stories are deep, blue and soulful—and I loved being lost in her sea of prose.”
—Bill Adler, author of Outwitting Squirrels and Boys and Their Toys
“A Korean heritage interwoven with an American-upbringing results in unique views on life and family. These coming-of-age stories—these life lessons—entertain even as they teach us something about ourselves.”
—Robert Kostuck, author and editor-in-chief, DoveTales
“A tour de force in memoir writing… informative, elegant, and extravagantly pleasurable to read.”
—Susan Tepper, author of What Drives Men and The Crooked Heart, a Play
Frances Park is the author or co-author of ten books including the novels When My Sister Was Cleopatra Moon (Hyperion) and To Swim Across the World (Hyperion), the memoir Chocolate Chocolate: The True Story of Two Sisters, Tons of Treats and the Little Shop that Could (Thomas Dunne), the children’s books My Freedom Trip: A Child’s Escape from North Korea (Boyds Mills Press) and Good-bye, 382 Shin Dang Dong (National Geographic Books). Her short fiction and personal essays have been published in O: The Oprah Magazine, Spirituality & Health Magazine, The Chicago Quarterly, The London Magazine, Folio, The Massachusetts Review, Arts & Letters, The Belleview Literary Review, Gargoyle, and The Coolest American Stories 2022, to name a few. Interviews include National Public Radio, CNN, Good Morning America, Voice of America, and Radio Free Asia. A finalist in the 2020 Dzanc Diverse Voices Book Prize and the 2019 Dzanc Novella Prize, Frances earned a spot on The Best American Essays 2017 Notable List with her essay, “You Two Are So Beautiful Together.” Prizes for children’s books include the International Reading Award, the Joan G. Sugarman Award, Notable Books for a Global Society Awards, and the Paterson Prize. She also co-owns Chocolate Chocolate in downtown Washington, DC. Walk in and feel the magic. And visit her at www.parksisters.com