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Somebody's Daughter

  • Writer
    Marie Myung-Ok Lee
  • Country
  • Publisher
  • Published Year
  • Genre
    Literature - English and American literatures - Fiction


A "heartwarming and heartbreaking"* story of a Korean American girl's search for her roots


Somebody's Daughter is the story of nineteen-year-old Sarah Thorson, who was adopted as a baby by a Lutheran couple in the Midwest. After dropping out of college, she decides to study in Korea and becomes more and more intrigued by her Korean heritage, eventually embarking on a crusade to find her birth mother. Paralleling Sarah's story is that of Kyung-sook, who was forced by difficult circumstances to let her baby be swept away from her immediately after birth, but who has always longed for her lost child.


From the Trade Paperback edition.



  • Publisher's Weekly

    February 21, 2005
    Young adult novelist Lee (Finding My Voice
    , etc.) explores a Korean-born girl's complicated journey to define her identity in her poignant adult debut. Adopted by a white Minnesota family who tried to quash any curiosity Sarah Thorson might have about her homeland, the directionless 20-year-old drops out of college and enrolls in a Korean-language program in Seoul. As she struggles to fit in, she recognizes her desire to learn about her birth family, and she's shocked to learn that she was abandoned as a baby (she'd been told her parents died in a car accident). With the help of her new boyfriend, Korean-American Doug, who educates her about her homeland and its citizens ("Cut open a Korean and... you'll find: salt and hot red peppers," he tells her over a meal of spicy soup), she goes on a Korean TV show dedicated to finding missing persons. When a woman comes forward, the two begin to form a bond, but a DNA test proves them unrelated. Meanwhile, Lee spins out the parallel story line of Sarah's birth mother: Kyung-Sook had dreams of pursuing a career in Korean folk music, but she fell for an American hippie who abandoned her once she became pregnant. Now 50, Kyung-Sook sees Sarah on TV and comes to Seoul to find her. Lee sidesteps a tender emotional reunion, though, in favor of an honest portrayal of a mother's sacrifice and a daughter's growth.

  • Nora Okja Keller, author of Comfort Woman and Fox Girl "Somebody's Daughter is a gift for those forgotten, for the thousands of Korean children adopted by white parents, for those who search and yearn for a sense of home and self."

  • Taylor Amato, Elle Girl* "If you're looking for a book that is both heartwarming and heartbreaking, then this is for you. Sarah's search for her mother and Kyung-sook's search for her daughter are guaranteed tearjerkers."

  • Ann Hood, author of The Ornithologist's Guide to Life "Lee manages to be both comic and frank in this story of one girl's journey back to Korea and her lost mother's own journey toward redemption."

  • Sam Coale, Providence Journal "Sumptuous and emotionally stunning . . . Once you begin this novel, you won't be able to put it down, infused as it is with our fragile sense of self, the search for natural parents to anchor one's identity, and Lee's elegant, imagistically sinuous prose that continually stabs the heart."

  • Lois-Ann Yamanaka, author of Wild Meat and the Bully Burgers "Somebody's Daughter is that rare book, that rare page-turner, the one you cannot put down, the one you will suspend washing the laundry for or cooking breakfast for. It is the novel you will open and read in one urgent breath as you take in the storyteller's compelling tale of lives felt long after the book's end as you turn off the light to sleep."

  • Eun Mi Young, Adoptive Families "Be prepared to put yourself in the adoptee's frame of mind. It is written from our viewpoint, and it's a keeper."


About the Author