Study Guide

A Step from Heaven

A Step from Heaven Summary

A young Korean girl moves with her parents from Korea to "heaven," i.e. America. But once she gets there everything is definitely not heavenly. In fact, life is pretty much continuously difficult for Young Ju and her parents.

First they have to live with Young Ju's aunt and uncle, which isn't all that comfortable (you try living with your extended family), and then they move into what can only be described as the ghetto.

From there things only get harder. Young Ju's little brother is born, which basically means that Young Ju goes from baby of the family to total afterthought… and then the real stuff really starts to happen: her father, Apa, gets increasingly mean and violent.

Sure he shows signs of being a jerk before this point, but with all the pressures of maintaining a young family in a new country (where he can hardly speak the language) on the income from two super-demeaning, low-end jobs, Apa just isn't having a good time in America. So he takes it all out (and we do mean all) on his wife and kids.

The rest of the book is all about Young Ju dealing with her dad as well as the Koreanness of her family. She grows up and goes to high school, where she has a (white) American best friend who hardly knows anything about her Korean family (or even where she lives)—that's because Young Ju keeps her family's stuff so secret that she might as well be a CIA agent undercover.

She does all of this while pulling straight A's and getting into college. And as for her dad… well, let's just say she gives him the boot with a little help from the po-po and her changed mother.

Does that mean all her insecurities and fears are gone? No way, but by the end of the novel she's definitely on her way—literally—out of her world and into a better, new one. And so are her mother and brother. Apa, on the other hand, goes all the way back to Korea.

  • Chapter 1

    Sea Bubble

    • Someone's speaking, but we don't know who it is. In fact, the only person who's named is Young Ju, our little heroine of the book.
    • What we do know is that this person really wants Young Ju to experience the edge of some seriously cold water.
    • Yes, they're living on the edge. Literally. Haha.
    • Young Ju's not really focused though—she's way more into pretending her toes are fish swimming in the sea.
    • Whoever the other person is seems pretty patient; that person goes right along with Young Ju's whole toes = fish thing and says that the toes are "fat piggy fish."
    • Okay—now the scene is getting clearer. The person is definitely someone who's bigger than Young Ju (and probably older too) because they want to carry Young Ju into the ocean waves and swim.
    • The person tells her to keep her legs tight around the person's body because they're about to go into deeper water.
    • But Young Ju is not feeling this idea—she really doesn't want to go deep because she's scared.
    • The other person is super-calm and reassuring though. They ask Young Ju to be brave, and reassure her that she will be held tightly the whole time.
    • Young Ju totally responds to this super-cool and loving person, so she says she'll try.
    • The two of them manage to swim one wave, and lo and behold, Young Ju wants to do it again.
    • The person calls Young Ju "my courageous girl," and they body surf the waves together.
    • By the way, just so you know, this whole scene is without quotation marks; it's just back-and-forth dialogue without the usual markers of a dialogue.
    • In other words? You're going to have to figure out who's speaking through context. Worry not, though—Shmoop is here to help.
    • Anyway, cue literary moment: Young Ju ends the chapter with an italicized line (in case you miss the whole literary-ness of the line, you know) from her perspective: she's a "sea bubble floating, floating in a dream. Bhop."
  • Chapter 2

    All This Weight

    • Apa isn't happy; Uhmma's not happy; no one's happy.
    • Halmoni, who's old and sleepy-looking, has given up trying to control Apa because she's, you know, old and Apa isn't a little boy anymore.
    • Halmoni is so weak that she only shakes her head and hides out with Uhmma and Young Ju when Apa comes home drunk.
    • They hide out because Apa's a mean drunk.
    • According to Young Ju, Halmoni's always saying that all Apa needs is a good spanking. Unfortunately, Harabugi—the enforcer—is dead.
    • Uhmma's not always about lying low though, and sometimes she's willing to confront her husband about his whereabouts.
    • You can probably guess where that leaves her and everyone else.
    • Yep—cue lots of sounds of stuff breaking.
    • When that happens, Halmoni rocks Young Ju on her lap and asks Harabugi's portrait how he could have left them alone with Apa and "all this weight."
  • Chapter 3

    Only God Can

    • This chapter doesn't play around—it starts immediately with Halmoni telling Young Ju to pray to God so that everything can get better.
    • She even recites the first line of a prayer: "Dear Father who art in heaven."
    • Young Ju's curious; she wants to know where heaven is. (Good question, right?)
    • Halmoni tries to finagle her way out of that one by saying that heaven is where Harabugi is, where God is, and that as a place it is good and loving.
    • Talk about pulling a fast one on Young Ju.
    • Young Ju believes her and asks if she can go there too.
    • Halmoni says someday, but only if she prays and loves God.
    • Young Ju says she will, but in truth God completely wigs her out because the picture of him in church is scary.
    • But Young Ju's willing to do anything—even deal with a scary-looking God—so long as she can see heaven and Harabugi.
    • She also wants to know if they can go to heaven right away, but Halmoni quickly puts an end to that idea and tells her that heaven is in the sky and far away.
    • Then Halmoni tells her to—you guessed it—pray while Halmoni reads the Bible.
    • Young Ju basically pretends to pray.
    • When she opens her eyes, she sees Halmoni seriously feeling the Spirit; Halmoni's rocking away while reading the Bible.
    • This reminds Young Ju: why is it that God makes a new name for himself (Jesus)?
    • Young Ju wouldn't mind having that same power, but Halmoni tells her she shouldn't be foolish.
    • Then Young Ju starts looking at a picture of Harabugi on the wall (clearly, Young Ju isn't feeling the Spirit), and she notices that Harabugi has nice "sleepy eyes" like "cats in the sun."
    • Her Apa has the same eyes too. And the same hair. Those genes are definitely strong.
    • At this point, Young Ju finally settles into a purpose; she starts praying to Harabugi.
    • She wants Harabugi to send God down so he can be Jesus and spank Apa, so Apa will be nice all the time.
    • Like that time (flashback alert) when Apa brought their dog Mi Shi home.
    • Uhmma wasn't down with the dog then, but Apa pulled a puppy-dog face and pointed out that Mi Shi was just a puppy dog too.
    • Who wouldn't laugh at that? Uhmma did and said the dog looked just like Apa, which is how Mi Shi got to stay and be friends with Young Ju.
    • Young Ju ends her prayer with the fact that she likes Apa when he's nice and when Uhmma makes her "squeaky-shoes laugh."
    • When Young Ju opens her eyes, she notices Halmoni peeking at her. Halmoni wants to know what that prayer was all about.
    • Young Ju gives the short version—that she wants God to come down and spank Apa.
    • Halmoni says, "He is the only one who can."
  • Chapter 4

    Mi Gook

    • What's Mi Gook? (Short answer: America.)
    • To Young Ju, it's big boxes full of stuff—like toys for her—from Apa's big sister a.k.a. her aunt.
    • By the way, Young Ju is basically scared of clowns, especially ones that pop out of a box.
    • To Apa, Mi Gook is all about the money, even if you're someone without an education; to Uhmma, Mi Gook means pretty mothers and big houses.
    • So of course Apa and Uhmma are all smiles when Apa gets a letter that basically says they're going to Mi Gook.
    • Young Ju thinks Mi Gook is "the best word." She even thinks it's better than the sea or candy.
    • But she doesn't get why her friend Ju Mi pushes her away.
    • In fact, Ju Mi does more than that. She tells Young Ju that Young Ju's moving, which makes her happy since she doesn't have to play with a baby anymore. Ju Mi is pretty much a mean girl in training.
    • Young Ju, of course, is totally upset and runs crying to her mother, at which point Uhmma just lays it out straight.
    • She tells Young Ju that they are moving to Mi Gook and that Mi Gook is far across the sea and only reachable by plane, so there's no way they'll be able to come back to Korea.
    • Young Ju can't imagine being apart from her home and from Ju Mi, but then she thinks about what her mom said about being up in the sky in an airplane.
    • So of course Young Ju figures it all out: they're going to heaven because Mi Gook is heaven. (Hey, she's young—cut her some slack.)
    • The whole idea of moving to Mi Gook even gets her mother to sing—something she never does, even in church, because she says singing takes your heart and her heart's to heavy to give to God. Deep, right?
    • Anyway, Uhmma's singing about America which is further proof to Young Ju that "Mi Gook" really is a magical word.
  • Chapter 5

    Hair

    • Uhmma's telling Young Ju to wear her best dress even though it has a hole in it.
    • Why? Because they're about to go to a salon to make Young Ju pretty for Mi Gook.
    • Young Ju isn't even supposed to pet the dog because she can't get dirty—but she can't resist. Hey, the dog's cute.
    • Plus Young Ju's just not into being pretty.
    • What does being pretty mean? As far as Young Ju's concerned, it means not playing (because she might get dirty) and getting her hair pulled back super-tight (ouch).
    • But Uhmma says it's important for Young Ju to be pretty so that people will know what a nice girl she is.
    • So they're walking down the street, and Young Ju's watching Uhmma's shoes "talk to the road." Okay, not literally—her shoes just make a loud "dok dok" sound.
    • Then Young Ju hears the word "curls," as in curly hair—Young Ju's about to get a perm because her mom thinks all pretty Mi Gook girls have curly hair.
    • Young Ju doesn't know anything about curls and wants to know if her mom is getting them too, but Uhmma's like "No way—I'm too old" (or something like that).
    • Then Uhmma and Young Ju get into a deep conservation about Mi Gook.
    • Okay—really it's Uhmma talking, and she's telling Young Ju that Mi Gook means Young Ju can be anything she wants to be. You know, the whole children-are-the-future schtick.
    • But all Young Ju can think about is hair, specifically curly hair, which she doesn't want because she wants hair like her mom's—heavy and straight. She even prays to God about it.
    • Young Ju tells her mom that she doesn't want curly hair, but Uhmma's not having it and even raises her hand at Young Ju as if she's about to hit her.
    • But she doesn't need to because Young Ju folds.
    • She sits through the super-long process of perming her hair while the ahjimma and her mother talk about Mi Gook.
    • Finally her hair's done… and how does it look?
    • Let's just say that Young Ju isn't happy. In fact, she thinks her hair looks like the hair of a "toy-man" (think: clown).
    • But when her mother asks her if she likes it, she lies and says yes anyway.
  • Chapter 6

    Waiting For Heaven

    • So they're on a bus and it's a long, bumpy ride to Mi Gook.
    • Oh wait—no—it's not a bus. It's an airplane, according to Uhmma, who corrects Young Ju and tells Young Ju that she'll let her know when they get there.
    • Young Ju plays with the bow on her dress because then she won't be looking at her dad—that's important because her father might get mad at her.
    • Plus the dress's color reminds her of Halmoni and their sunset walks.
    • She really misses Halmoni and wishes Halmoni wasn't sitting alone in their house.
    • Why isn't Halmoni with them?
    • Simple: Halmoni thinks Mi Gook is for young people.
    • Which doesn't sit well with Young Ju. She just doesn't get why Halmoni couldn't go with them and doesn't want to go to Mi Gook unless Halmoni is there. (It's a little too late, unfortunately.)
    • That means Young Ju doesn't really want to go to heaven either because Mi Gook is heaven. (Yeah, no one's corrected her on that yet.)
    • Oh—and Young Ju thinks God is a liar. Blasphemy, right?
    • Then the "bus" jumps, which makes Young Ju think that God just heard her call him a liar, so she immediately prays for forgiveness.
    • But that darn "bus" jumps again, so now Young Ju thinks God is definitely angry with her.
    • She tries to get Uhmma to comfort her, but Uhmma just thinks she's being silly.
    • Still Young Ju wants to know: does everyone go to heaven?
    • Uhmma says that as long as you're one of "God's people" you can, so Young Ju wants to know if Halmoni will go to heaven.
    • So of course Uhmma says yes, Halmoni will get to heaven one day.
    • But since Young Ju still thinks Mi Gook is heaven and vice versa, she's all excited because now she thinks Halmoni will be meeting up with them in Mi Gook.
    • Now that she's excited, she can't stop with her questions, like whether Halmoni is sleeping right now.
    • Uhmma replies that she is, but that Young Ju ought to stop asking so many questions and let her sleep too.
    • So Young Ju settles back into her seat and listens to Uhmma sing the mountain rabbit song (Young Ju's song).
    • Young Ju imagines now that she's the mountain rabbit and that she's going to go see Harabugi.
    • She also plans to ask Halmoni how her "bus" ride goes once Halmoni gets to Mi Gook.
    • Then she's back to being a rabbit who's hopping and "waiting for heaven."
  • Chapter 7

    A Step From Heaven

    • Okay, now that Young Ju's in Mi Gook, it's time to get busy… As in, it's time to find Harabugi.
    • Yeah, he's dead, but Mi Gook is heaven remember?
    • So Young Ju's all over Gomo's house hunting for her dead grandpa.
    • Uhmma's looking for her, so Young Ju stops looking into all the rooms of the house and goes with Uhmma to the living room.
    • Lo and behold, she has an uncle and his name is Uhing Kel Thim, a.k.a. Uncle Tim. (That first name is just Young Ju trying to pronounce English, by the way.)
    • He's white, as in all blond and blue-eyed, and he tells her that she can call him Sahmchun (Korean for uncle) until she figures out how to speak English.
    • Small talk ensues, like whether or not Young Ju likes Gomo's house.
    • Young Ju isn't one to lie though, so she spits out that she can't find Harabugi… which of course means that she ends up revealing that she believes Mi Gook is heaven.
    • Apa's not about to let that nonsense go, but Uncle Tim tells Young Ju the truth—that Mi Gook is definitely not heaven and that Harabugi's with God.
    • Young Ju wonders how this isn't heaven since Gomo's house has carpeting and wooden doors—everyone seems happy and rich.
    • This leads Uncle Tim to tell her that Mi Gook is more like—deeper meaning alert—"a step from heaven." You know… the title to the book.
    • Young Ju's not down with Uncle Tim's spin on Mi Gook, and she wants to go home to Halmoni if she can't find Harabugi.
    • Apa's not going to take that attitude from Young Ju though; he tells her to sit down.
    • Uhmma tries to talk the whole situation down by saying Young Ju's got an imagination.
    • Gomo tries the whole comforting route and offers her Coca-Cola, the drink everyone in Mi Gook loves.
    • Young Ju's not so sure about this fizzy drink, but she drinks it because Apa tells her to.
    • And… she hates it. It hurts because the bubbles make her feel like she's swallowing fish bones, but she doesn't say a word.
    • Apa's finally happy with her.
    • She just sits there with wet eyes and a painful mouth while the grown-ups talk about all the typical adult stuff (making a living, schools, etc.).
    • Young Ju doesn't get why everyone's so happy—she's still wondering why they aren't upset that Halmoni and Harabugi aren't there and that Mi Gook isn't heaven.
    • She takes another sip from her Coke. Yep—definitely not heaven.
  • Chapter 8

    My Future

    • It's school time, and Young Ju's on her way there in their new, broken-down car.
    • Young Ju knows that school is supposed to be her future, but she doesn't like the word future though because everything seems to be in the future, like their own house.
    • Young Ju's thinking about how she's a Mouse (or Rat) according to the Chinese zodiac, while everyone else in the family has important signs like Tiger or Dragon.
    • Even the baby waiting to be born (yep, there's another one coming) will be a Dragon.
    • Okay, now back to school—as in now, not the future.
    • Which confuses Young Ju. How can school be her future when she's going to it right now?
    • Anyway, she gets to school and meets her new teacher, who looks like she has a cloud for hair.
    • Young Ju thinks she looks like an old witch who eats kids.
    • The teacher tries to talk to her in English, but she can't get Young Ju's name right, which Young Ju just doesn't appreciate.
    • More awkward attempts at communication continue on both sides.
    • Young Ju meets some of the other kids, and the sheer diversity stuns her a little.
    • But you know what? Only one boy has curly hair. Hrmm… What was that about curly hair and Mi Gook people?
    • Anyway, Young Ju hopes her curly hair won't make people think she's a boy too.
    • Class starts and a girl offers her a red crayon; Young Ju calls her Sea Shirt because her shirt is—yup—the color of the sea. They begin coloring.
    • Then lunch comes, but Young Ju doesn't know what lunch is.
    • Her teacher shares what turn out to be Goldfish crackers with her, and Young Ju tries it out.
    • Turns out, she likes Goldfish (who doesn't appreciate salt?) and her teacher who lets her play with her Goldfish crackers and draw for the rest of lunch.
    • The girl who gave her a crayon comes back after lunch and starts babbling away in English, but Young Ju shakes her head at her to let her know the English is over her head.
    • But not for long—Young Ju's officially got some reasons to learn English.
  • Chapter 9

    Not Forever

    • Apa's telling Uhmma that "It is not forever," but what does he mean?
    • Young Ju and her parents are sitting in their beaten-down station wagon, staring at the beaten-down house they're about to move into.
    • Not—in other words—a place they're all looking forward to living.
    • But Apa's determined to move there.
    • Uhmma, on the other hand, thinks it's a bad move… and not just because the house looks abandoned in the middle of a ghetto neighborhood; they could also be saving money while living rent-free at Gomo's house.
    • But no—Apa feels restricted and all un-manly living at his sister's house.
    • But, but, but… then "slap, loud like a breaking glass"—Apa's not the kind of guy who likes a questioning wife.
    • Young Ju's witnessing all of this, and it definitely makes her feel anxious.
    • But what can she do?
    • And what can Uhmma do too?
    • Finally, Uhmma—who has blood dripping from her lips—submits to Apa and repeats the words he tells her at the start of the chapter: "It is not forever."
  • Chapter 10

    Park Joon Ho

    • Enter: the Dragon.
    • Okay, not literally—it's just the day Young Ju's new baby brother is coming home from the hospital.
    • Gomo's at the house taking care of Young Ju, but she isn't really taking care of Young Ju; she's really just getting the house ready for the new baby.
    • She does, however, manage to tell Young Ju what a Mongolian spot is—a birthmark that apparently every Korean baby has because Koreans used to come from Mongolia.
    • Then he comes home, and everyone (except Young Ju) goes totally gaga over the little baby; he's even got the adults forecasting that he's going to be president one day.
    • Young Ju feels left out and calls out that she could be president one day, but Apa just laughs at her and says she can't because she's a girl.
    • (Yeah—Apa's not exactly up for any Father of the Year awards.)
    • All Young Ju gets is a mini-lecture from Gomo about how she's now an older sister, so she's responsible for helping to take care of the little runt. Oh—and that she needs to be a good housekeeper too. What a future.
    • Young Ju gets it into her head to hunt for the baby's Mongolian spot because maybe, if he doesn't have one, then he can't really be a Park. You know—perfectly logical stuff for a young girl to think of.
    • Anyway, the baby has a Mongolian spot, so no dice: he's a Park.
    • Young Ju notices how Apa's hands are soft and clean—which isn't how his hands usually are.
    • In fact, Apa just has a totally different, better way of treating the new baby (different from, she's guessing, the way he reacted to her birth).
    • The adults all toast to the new baby, Park Joon Ho, while Young Ju thinks to herself that she's "not a baby anymore."
  • Chapter 11

    Burying Lies

    • Young Ju's now in second grade and feeling more comfortable with English; so much so that she's eager to share something she has on her mind with the whole class.
    • That something is the news that her little brother has died.
    • Don't worry—she's lying. Joon Ho is all well and good.
    • So why does she lie? Because she wants to be "the only Park now." She's keeping the family name "like boy."
    • Mrs. Sheldon, her teacher, tells the class to give Young Ju "warm fuzzies," which are basically balls of yarn that the class makes and then gives away; Young Ju also gets to choose a book first for silent reading.
    • In other words, she gets all sorts of perks for having a dead brother.
    • Unfortunately, maybe too many perks—the school ends up sending condolence flowers to her house, where Gomo receives them.
    • Luckily for Young Ju, Gomo's English still isn't too good so she doesn't understand what the condolence card means when it says "sorry about [your] loss."
    • So Young Ju makes up another story about how she lost a school spelling bee and came in second.
    • Which of course doesn't worry Gomo at all because coming in second at a spelling bee is great news.
    • Young Ju tells Gomo she's going outside to play, but really, she's going outside to bury all the stuff she got at school today—her warm fuzzies and the card.
    • When she gets back inside, Uhmma's home and super-proud of Young Ju.
    • She even makes Young Ju talk to her about what Young Ju wants to become—a doctor, lawyer, professor, maybe—all of which inspires Young Ju to be the "famous Park in the family. Maybe even better than the first son."
    • Later that night, Young Ju sneaks into the kitchen and takes a flashlight out of a kitchen drawer.
    • Why? Because she has to study of course… for Friday's spelling test.
  • Chapter 12

    Being Older

    • Joon has a yellow balloon, while Young Ju has a stuffed elephant.
    • Sounds like Young Ju has the better deal, but Young Ju doesn't actually want the hard, crunchy elephant that she won by mistake at the school carnival. She'd rather have Joon's balloon.
    • That's because a balloon can fly up to the sky, like to heaven (yeah, she's still on that heaven obsession).
    • But Uhmma tells Young Ju to be reasonable since she's the older sister now.
    • Not exactly what Young Ju wants to hear.
    • When they're in the car, Young Ju wants to know why Joon doesn't hold the balloon by the string.
    • She even offers to hold the balloon for him, but Joon isn't falling for that one—he holds on to the balloon and refuses to let Young Ju near it.
    • So Young Ju tries a different tactic: she offers to trade her elephant for his balloon.
    • Still, Joon's not having it.
    • So Young Ju does the only thing left: she gets physical and gives him a pinch on the arm.
    • That makes Joon cry out and Uhmma scold her.
    • Young Ju stops bugging Joon, and when they get home, she leaps out of the car with her elephant.
    • Joon, on the other hand, is bawling because his balloon has just popped.
    • Uhmma thumps him on his head, but that only makes Joon cry harder.
    • Uhmma can't figure out what else to do, so Young Ju takes over.
    • Young Ju walks up to Joon and tries to talk to him like her English teacher talks to the class.
    • It kind of works, but then he's about to cry again, so Young Ju just shoves her elephant into his hands.
    • That works—Joon's calling the elephant "my elephant" now—but Young Ju corrects him and tells him the elephant is still hers.
    • Doesn't matter—Joon ignores her.
    • Uhmma finally unfreezes and watches Young Ju as Young Ju watches Uhmma. They both head back to the house.
  • Chapter 13

    Disappearing Bubbles

    • Young Ju has no idea what apple cider is—this is the kind of stuff she keeps from her BFF Amanda—or what going means (as in going out).
    • English just doesn't make sense sometimes.
    • Apa interrupts her thoughts and orders her to help him and Joon wash the car.
    • Young Ju has Apa's system down, and she gets right to scrubbing the car with dishwashing soap and sponge.
    • Joon, on the other hand, is totally not working—in fact, he's playing with the bubbles.
    • Does Apa care? Nope. He tells her to leave Joon alone and go back to soaping the car.
    • Young Ju does what she's told, but she's thinking about how everyone likes Joon for his height and size (she, unfortunately, is small).
    • Then Joon decides to go pee on the street.
    • Young Ju rats on her brother, but Apa doesn't care because Joon's a boy after all and, as far as he's concerned, peeing outside is what boys do.
    • Young Ju doesn't get it though—she doesn't get why Apa treats and views girls and boys differently.
    • Meanwhile, Apa's cracking up because Joon's pretending to be a fireman with his penis spraying pee on the street.
    • Even Joon's friend Peach Fuzz is amazed at Joon's boldness.
    • All of this just makes Young Ju wish she could be far away.
    • She even turns her head as Apa sprays away the bubbles she's soaped up on the car.
  • Chapter 14

    The Blob

    • Are you thinking this chapter might have something to do with the movie The Blob?
    • Think the opposite then because this is all about Apa being a good dad (for once).
    • On some weekend mornings, Apa turns into what Young Ju calls "the Blob," and he catches the kids by surprise, scooping them up into a gigantic bear hug.
    • He won't let go, and instead goes after them if they try to get away from him; he even manages to bring Uhmma into the hug.
    • It's only when the kids say they give up that he lets go and melts away into the carpet.
    • The kids may have bruises and rug burns from all the rough play, but they don't care—it's one of those rare times when Apa is fun and nice, and the kids feel comfortable enough about hugging him back.
  • Chapter 15

    Rainy-Day Surprises

    • It's raining, but you probably figured that out already.
    • So anyway, Joon and Young Ju are stuck inside the car at the parking lot in Uhmma's workplace, Johnny's Steak House.
    • Usually it's not so bad waiting for Uhmma because they can go out of the car and play, but today, because it's raining, Uhmma can only give them a couple of dry hamburgers from work and leave them stir crazy, inside the car.
    • The rain makes Young Ju think back to another rainy day… Yep, it's flashback time.
    • That time, Uhmma took Young Ju back into the restaurant while Joon slept in the car.
    • Young Ju got to hang out with the other restaurant employees, eat some more food, and listen to her mother chat with another employee in a mix of Korean, Japanese, and English; Young Ju also got to hear her mother called by her name Suna (and not Uhmma).
    • She even got to drink a Shirley Temple that one of the workers made for her.
    • It was the kind of day that made Young Ju wish the rain could last forever, and a far cry from being stuck in the car with Joon, who wakes up and grouches about the rain.
    • Doesn't matter—Young Ju still likes her rainy days.
  • Chapter 16

    Strong Is a Man

    • Joon and his friend Spencer are playing with Legos, and you know how kids can get with their Legos.
    • Even though Joon is supposed to get ready and go to Gomo's house with the family, he doesn't stop playing with his Legos, which brings Apa over, who orders Joon to clean up.
    • But Joon just complains about going to Gomo's house (it's boring there) and doesn't budge.
    • You know what's coming right?
    • Apa isn't happy.
    • He fakes being polite to Spencer so that he can get Spencer to go home, but once Spencer leaves, Apa's whole demeanor changes, Jekyll/Hyde-style.
    • At first Apa berates Joon about whining and acting "like a girl"—that's enough to get Joon to start crying, but then Apa slaps him hard, too.
    • That hurts, but Apa doesn't let up because he says he doesn't want Joon to grow up "weak."
    • He lectures Joon again about being strong like a man and tells Joon to repeat what he says.
    • Joon does, so it seems like Apa is going to stop… But then he surprises everyone by kicking Joon in the gut.
    • Uhmma tries to help Joon, but Apa pushes her aside and tells Joon to clean up.
    • The parents walk back to the car outside, while Joon moves to clean his Legos up.
    • Joon tells Young Ju that he hates Apa, and Young Ju nods back in sympathy.
    • Then, as Young Ju helps Joon clean up, one of his Lego flags breaks in her hand.
    • Joon cries out about his flag and then slaps Young Ju across the face, making her ears ring.
  • Chapter 17

    Harry

    • Young Ju's thinking about all the times when things didn't go their way—in fact, she's thinking that nothing ever goes their way, like the nice suburban houses on a hill that they haven't been able to move to (even though Apa says "We shall see").
    • Which reminds her of Harry, a baby bird she and Joon tried to save.
    • (By the way, this story doesn't end up happily for Harry, so if you can't stand bad things happening to animals, turn away now.)
    • Joon is the one to find Harry, but both Joon and Young Ju feed Harry to keep him alive.
    • They don't tell their parents; instead, they treat Harry like they think good parents would.
    • And Harry grows, quickly even.
    • But then one day Harry just dies, which breaks their hearts, Joon's especially.
    • The kids bury Harry on the hill they've been hoping to live on.
    • Young Ju considers praying for Harry as part of the burial, but Joon's not down with that because he doesn't think God's done anything for him, so Young Ju just says something short and respectful for Harry.
    • Young Ju's crying, but Joon's just really silent.
    • Then Joon finally speaks: "'I love you, Harry'" and then "'It never happens the way we want. Never.'"
  • Chapter 18

    One Hundred Pennies

    • Young Ju really wants to try her hand at the lottery, so she's trying to convince Uhmma to buy a lottery ticket—after all, it's only a dollar.
    • But Uhmma's really thrifty. So thrifty, in fact, that she saves every penny—literally—and even buys things with her pennies, which totally embarrasses Young Ju because nothing announces how poor and "Oriental" you are than paying with a jar of pennies.
    • Anyway, Uhmma finally relents and says Young Ju can go buy the ticket.
    • So Young Ju goes and chooses her SuperLotto numbers.
    • When Uhmma pays for the ticket, she plunks a whole lot of change, mostly pennies, which, you can imagine, irks Young Ju.
    • But that doesn't stop Young Ju from feeling hopeful.
    • She and Uhmma go through all the things they would buy with twenty-three million dollars (the amount of the lottery).
    • They end up talking about their dream cars—for Young Ju, it's all about a Porsche.
    • But not Uhmma. Uhmma likes the Oldsmobile because it's big and can fit a family, plus it can withstand an accident with a Toyota… unlike a Toyota.
    • Anyway, point is, Young Ju's head is full of dreams—of things she'll be able to buy and places she can travel to (like Korea).
    • Then it's time for the Lotto numbers to be called out.
    • Does it go their way? We think you know the answer to this one, but just to be clear, Young Ju's numbers don't win the Lotto.
    • Young Ju's ashamed that she just wasted a dollar, but then she starts thinking about how she might pay for next week's Lotto ticket.
    • The chapter ends with Young Ju staring at Uhmma's jar of pennies, wondering if it's worth it to use the pennies to pay for another Lotto ticket…
  • Chapter 19

    Making Sure

    • Apa's leading Young Ju into the Department of Immigration and Naturalization Services building.
    • Apa is clearly confused by all the English around him, so Young Ju and he switch places and Young Ju leads.
    • The bureaucracy is ridiculous—they have to bounce from window to window and wait for a really long time.
    • Finally they get called up to a window, where the service person gives them another number for another window (if you've ever been to the DMV, then you know this process all too well).
    • When they get to the right window, the guy tells them that they have to fill out more forms for the green card renewal—the reason they're there—but that the forms can be mailed in.
    • But Apa doesn't understand, and all he sees are more forms, which to him means that he has to take more time to fill out stuff he can't read and possibly return again to the office—all of which would mean another day off of work.
    • Young Ju tries to explain that they can mail the forms in to him, but Apa doesn't really listen to her and manages to make a scene at the window.
    • Eventually Young Ju gets Apa to understand that he doesn't need to go back to the building on another day.
    • Clearly, though, the whole day has drained Apa; he tells Young Ju to "make sure" that he doesn't have to return to that building again.
  • Chapter 20

    Reaching

    • Young Ju's dreaming that she's about to touch a cloud, when she wakes up.
    • It's a recurring dream that's all about Young Ju's wish to reach heaven (hey, big dreams die hard).
    • Anyway, Uhmma walks in and tells Young Ju that Halmoni just passed away. (What, is she psychic now?)
    • Young Ju takes a walk down memory lane with Uhmma, but even she can't piece all the memories of Halmoni together.
    • Then Uhmma tells Young Ju to go comfort Apa.
    • Young Ju isn't exactly willing (hey, we don't blame her—Apa's not exactly easy to deal with) but goes anyway because she doesn't want to be a bad daughter.
    • It's not so bad—she and Apa actually talk, and Apa reminisces about his mother.
    • But then things sour as Apa starts beating himself up for not going back to Korea for the funeral.
    • Young Ju does her best to make him feel better about the whole situation, and even tells him that Halmoni doesn't need him in Korea because she's already in heaven.
    • It's a nice thing to say, and Apa recognizes it by holding her hand. Even Apa has a soft side.
  • Chapter 21

    My Best Is Always Not Enough

    • Okay, no one tells us what this is about, but Apa's sitting at his card table, staring at a piece of paper in his hands late into the night. Why? You'll just have to read on…
    • Young Ju's up too because she's studying for a history exam.
    • She hears a noise in the kitchen and thinks maybe it's Uhmma, so she goes and checks on her.
    • Before she gets to the kitchen, she hears Uhmma asking Apa where he's been.
    • Bad idea because Apa's drunk, and you know what that means: fighting… lots of fighting.
    • Apa leaves the house, so Young Ju goes and checks on Uhmma.
    • Uhmma's not in good a shape—she's crying and she has a swollen eye.
    • Young Ju looks around and notices that the room is a total mess from the fighting.
    • Uhmma tells Young Ju to go back to sleep and not talk about the incident to anyone, which Young Ju protests at first, but eventually Uhmma gets Young Ju to agree and go back to her room.
    • Then the chapter ends with almost the same exact description of Apa sitting at a desk—only this time, it's Uhmma who's sitting at a desk and staring at a checkbook.
  • Chapter 22

    The Power of Prayer

    • It's church time because Uhmma says so.
    • But Joon Ho and Young Ju are confused because it's just not something they do as a family.
    • Young Ju is especially not into it (you can practically hear her inward groan) because the minister is that guy who stands outside the store all day going on and on about how God will change your life—you know, the guy you try to avoid on your way into the store.
    • Uhmma says Grace Church is new, and the minister seems like a really good guy; Joon Ho is just trying to avoid the whole conversation.
    • Young Ju wants to know though, if Apa will be going too—apparently Apa gets a pass.
    • That's probably not a bad thing considering Apa's home a lot less now, and when he is home, he's often drunk, drinking, or sleeping off his drunkenness.
    • On the way to church, Young Ju notices Uhmma looking in the mirror, patting her own hair.
    • When they get to the church, which is only a basement, the minister's wife Mrs. Kim—in her high heels and nice clothes—greets them.
    • She's super-warm and friendly to them, and she ushers Joon Ho and Young Ju to the Sunday school side of the church (which is really more like a small office than a classroom).
    • Sunday school is boring—so boring that Young Ju asks to go to the bathroom (you know that excuse).
    • When she's out in the big hall, Young Ju notices Uhmma deep in prayer, sitting in the back row of the adult congregation, while everyone else is singing.
    • When both services are over, they all meet up, and Uhmma asks how Sunday school went.
    • Joon Ho tells her that Sunday school was boring but that the doughnuts were good.
    • But Uhmma doesn't care—she thinks church will be better once they know more people.
    • In fact, she's in such good spirits that she hums a song and drives them all to the beach.
    • Once they're on the beach, Uhmma kicks off her heels and starts singing a church song. (That must have been one good service.)
    • Young Ju listens to her mother sing all the high notes in the song.
  • Chapter 23

    Becoming Too American

    • It's Amanda's birthday party—with boys, at the beach—but Uhmma's not letting Young Ju go.
    • Why, you ask? Because American girls are all fast and boy-crazy; i.e., a bad influence on Young Ju.
    • Young Ju's begging Uhmma to let her go, but Uhmma tells her she can just give Amanda a gift at school.
    • So Young Ju switches tactics—she tries to pump Amanda's image up.
    • Amanda gave her class notes when she was absent once; Amanda bought her a necklace when it was her birthday; Amanda loaned her lunch money when she didn't have any.
    • Wait, what? Young Ju borrowed money?
    • That's totally not okay in Uhmma's book because rule number one for a Korean family is that you don't borrow money and become indebted to someone outside the family… according to Uhmma anyway.
    • Now Young Ju's in debt to Amanda, so Uhmma decides Young Ju can go to the party.
    • Young Ju does a doubletake, but Uhmma explains that she has to go because now she's obligated to go—after all, she took money from Amanda.
    • You think Young Ju cares about this greater lesson though?
    • Nope—Young Ju's off getting ready for the party before Uhmma changes her mind.
    • Once they arrive at the beach, Young Ju tells Uhmma to drop her off far from where the actual party is because—you guessed it—Young Ju's embarrassed by her mother.
    • Young Ju reminds Uhmma that she also doesn't need to pick Young Ju up since Amanda's parents will drop her off.
    • Uhmma suspects nothing and drives off, while Young Ju observes all this black smoke coming out of their beat-up station wagon.
    • When it's time for Amanda's parents to drive Young Ju home, Young Ju lies about where she lives.
    • She gets Mr. Doyle to drop her off at a nice two-story house up on the hill.
    • But that's not enough, and since Mr. Doyle's the responsible sort, she actually has to pretend to go into the yard of the house in order for the Doyles to drive off.
    • As Young Ju walks home, she notices how nice it is up on the hill—the air is fresh, the lawns are neat. She's glad they buried Harry the baby bird on the hill.
    • Her neighborhood is the complete opposite of the houses on the hill: there isn't much grass and there are all these metal fences crisscrossing everything.
    • Plus the apartment they rent really isn't anything to look at.
    • Young Ju goes inside her home and eats dinner with her family, but it's really quiet—so different from the talkative Doyles.
    • Young Ju wonders why her parents can't be more like the Doyles, who tease each other and help each other out.
    • Apa's drinking beer and asking to use the car tomorrow, but Uhmma wants to know why, since it'll be a Sunday and she needs the car to go to church.
    • But Apa's not about to give in to Uhmma.
    • Young Ju recognizes this and so she jumps in to help out Uhmma by saying she's got chorus practice at church and can't miss it.
    • Apa doesn't care though and tells her to finish eating.
    • That Young Ju—she just can't keep quiet unfortunately, and she asks Apa why he needs the car anyway.
    • Bad idea.
    • Apa tells Young Ju to stand up and walk over to him.
    • Then he hits her on the side of her head and tells her never to question him.
    • He goes on and yells at her about how Amanda's making her "too American;" he even calls Amanda "worthless."
    • Harsh, right? Young Ju thinks so too.
    • So she quietly disagrees with Apa.
    • Super bad idea. He slams her to the ground and then tells her not to get up until she knows "how to be a Korean girl again."
  • Chapter 24

    Punishment

    • Gomo, Uncle Tim, and Uhmma are all talking to and about Apa.
    • Why is this such a big deal?
    • Apa was just arrested for drunk driving, so no one is happy with him.
    • Gomo, especially, is laying down the law (pun totally intended) to him.
    • Finally Gomo leaves, but before she does, she lets Apa know that their talk isn't over and that she'll be over tomorrow.
    • The next day Uhmma and the kids are walking on eggshells around Apa; then the phone rings and it's Gomo saying she'll be coming over.
    • All of a sudden, Apa turns Christian and wants to go to church. What a coincidence, right?
    • So off the Parks go to church.
    • Only it's all a little awkward with Apa there.
    • Apa's not into being social with Pastor Kim; he just leads Uhmma to the back row of seats in the church (even though she usually sits in the front).
    • When the service is over, Uhmma helps out with food while Apa stands off in the corner alone, smoking a cigarette. You know, like James Dean only without the super-hot and oh-so-cool factors.
    • On the way home, Uhmma tries to get Apa to talk about his experience at church, but Apa's totally silent.
    • Once they get home, Apa takes off his tie, storms off to his room, and slams the door like he's an angry teenager.
    • But then he comes back out and goes straight for the car.
    • Which is—of course—a big no-no. After all, he just got caught for drunk driving.
    • That's at least what's on Uhmma's mind, but Apa doesn't care and drives away; he doesn't come back for three days.
    • What does Uhmma do? Wait for Apa.
  • Chapter 25

    Daughter

    • Scene: the school gymnasium, with bleachers filled with families.
    • It's awards season, and no we don't mean the Oscars. The honors students at Young Ju's school are getting awards.
    • Young Ju is there with Amanda and her parents (Young Ju's parents can't be there because of work).
    • Amanda gets an award for English, which is cool for her parents, but the big surprise is the award for the highest ninth-grade GPA that—drumroll, please—goes to Young Ju.
    • When the ceremony ends, Young Ju tells the Doyles to drop her off at the library; she says that she needs to study.
    • Why the lie (because it is a lie)?
    • The Doyles still don't know where Young Ju actually lives, and she's not about to tell them—plus she's still not supposed to hang out with Amanda.
    • The Doyles do all these cheesy things like sing in the car and say embarrassing (but cute) things about Amanda.
    • Then the Doyles pass through a sobriety checkpoint, which just makes Young Ju think anxiously about Apa and his arrest.
    • In fact, she's not just anxious—she's paranoid that the police will recognize her as Apa's daughter or that Apa might be on the side of the road.
    • But Mr. Doyle just jokes around with the police officer and everything goes fine.
    • When Young Ju gets home, she tells Uhmma about her award.
    • Uhmma is so proud of her, but she's also ashamed that she wasn't there for Young Ju on such a special day. Uhmma even apologizes to Young Ju for being neglectful parents.
    • Then she puts Young Ju's certificate on the coffee table for Apa to look at.
    • Only Apa never comes home because he spent the night sleeping in his car downtown.
    • When he finally does come home, he just throws his newspapers over the coffee table without glancing at the certificate.
    • Young Ju feels hurt and starts to crumple up her certificate, when she notices a smudge on her certificate.
    • She sniffs the certificate and notices an ammonia and bleach smell (smells that have to do with her father and his job as a janitor).
    • Because of the smell, a huge ache "threatens to drown [her] heart."
  • Chapter 26

    Revealing Forms

    • It's Sunday morning, and Young Ju walks into the kitchen where she sees Uhmma acting all weird, holding a brown paper bag.
    • Uhmma says they're late for church, but Young Ju doesn't understand Uhmma since it's only seven o'clock, so it isn't even close to church time.
    • Young Ju also smells a strange odor and wants to ask Uhmma about the smell, but Uhmma orders her to get ready for church.
    • After Young Ju showers, she goes to Joon and talks to him about that smell.
    • But Joon doesn't care (he's sleeping—and nobody wants to be woken up by an older sister), so Young Ju goes back into the kitchen and tries to hunt down the source of the smell.
    • She ends up outside rummaging through the trash can, where she finds a brown paper bag like the kind Uhmma was holding earlier.
    • She's a little scared to find out what's inside the bag.
    • Then Joon walks out and just does it—he reaches inside and pulls out an empty Jim Beam bottle.
    • And he doesn't stop there: he pulls out a bunch of empty beer cans too, which he crushes one by one.
    • Young Ju's disturbed by Joon's anger—plus that's not the source of the smell.
    • So she goes back into the house and looks for Uhmma in Uhmma's room.
    • What does she find? Uhmma with bruises all over her body. (Maybe Young Ju should have knocked…)
    • Uhmma's ashamed of the bruises, but Young Ju's both angry and sickened by the bruises—she wants to know why Apa would beat Uhmma, but Uhmma keeps defending him.
    • Finally Young Ju stands up and says "You have choices, Uhmma." Go Young Ju, right?
    • She walks behind Uhmma and ties Uhmma's hair back.
    • Uhmma notices—in a really shaky, teary voice—how tall Young Ju has grown.
  • Chapter 27

    Patches

    • Uh-oh—the school is calling about Joon.
    • You know what that means: trouble.
    • Joon's been ditching school so much that the school's worried he'll flunk out.
    • Who gets the call? Young Ju.
    • But she doesn't get what's going on with Joon.
    • He's not around anymore (just like Apa, by the way), and she doesn't know where he goes; when he is home, he locks himself in his room and just draws a lot—stuff like X-Men drawings.
    • He's so different from when he was seven years old (there's a picture of him at that age above his desk), all smiley and cute; now he's got a shaved head and dresses in black all the time.
    • Young Ju decides to talk to Joon about his whole teen delinquent act.
    • But Joon's not into her whole lecture about staying in school and just wants to know that she won't tell the parents about his absences.
    • This doesn't stop Young Ju from badgering him about where he goes when he's not in school.
    • He just says he's goofing off with his friends, but Young Ju wants him to get good grades like their parents expect.
    • Anyway, Joon's not easy to talk to, so Young Ju finally says she'll have to tell the parents if he doesn't do better in school.
    • Which—of course—angers Joon.
    • So he totally lashes out at Young Ju and accuses her of being a nerdy, friendless freak.
    • But all Young Ju can think about is how angry Joon is, how old (in a sad way) he seems, and how different he is from what Apa and Uhmma want him to be.
    • He's just this guy, hunched over his desk with bloodshot eyes—so tense and so tight.
    • When Young Ju goes back out to the living room, all she can do is finger this hole in the old sheet covering their couch.
    • They're not going to get a new sheet, so Young Ju gets out Uhmma's sewing kit to patch up that hole.
  • Chapter 28

    Disclosure

    • Amanda and Mrs. Doyle drop off Young Ju at the library again—it's the only way Young Ju can still sneak around behind Ama's and Uhmma's backs and see Amanda.
    • Amanda and Mrs. Doyle joke about how Young Ju's always at the library, but Young Ju just tells them it's a lot easier for her to get work done at the library. Seems convincing, right?
    • Anyway, Young Ju doesn't hang around to chat. She leaves so that she doesn't have to deal with Mrs. Doyle's questions about Uhmma (PTA meetings, you know).
    • When Young Ju gets home though, Apa is home (for some reason… it's not his usual style).
    • Apa asks her where she was, and Uhmma comes out of the kitchen to listen in on Apa's grilling.
    • Young Ju knows that Apa knows something's up, but she goes ahead and tells him she was at the library.
    • Apa grabs Young Ju by her hair and drags her across the living room; he also calls her a few things that we can't really repeat because we're pretty much a PG-bunch over here.
    • Anyway, he's not happy because he knows she's lying—after all, he saw her with Amanda at the library.
    • Young Ju wants to ask him why he was at the library and not at work, but she just mumbles that she doesn't remember.
    • Apa's not having it.
    • He slaps her.
    • Yells at her.
    • Slaps her some more.
    • Calls her some more unrepeatable names.
    • Demands Amanda's number, which—for once—Young Ju just says no to.
    • That just makes Apa start wailing on her.
    • All through this, Young Ju's trying her hardest to space out.
    • Finally Uhmma steps in because she's worried that Apa's going to kill Young Ju.
    • Uhmma calls Apa a "worthless hoodlum"—no wonder the children hide from him—and this makes Apa turn on Uhmma.
    • He stops hitting Young Ju and starts beating up Uhmma, who's screaming stuff like "worthless dog" and "drunk bastard" the whole time—stuff that just angers Apa even more.
    • Now that Young Ju's free from Apa, she's not sure what to do.
    • The hitting is making her anxious, so she prays to God, but the big guy up in the sky isn't really answering.
    • Then she hears this huge noise and then silence from Uhmma.
    • Young Ju stops praying; instead she moves to the phone and calls 9-1-1.
    • But she can't talk to the operator—she just freezes.
    • She's filled with doubts, and even hearing Halmoni's voice telling her that "Only God can."
    • But the sound of all that fighting and Uhmma's wail gets Young Ju out of her head—she asks the 9-1-1 operator to help her and Uhmma out while another huge crash explodes in the background.
  • Chapter 29

    Seeds of Life

    • Apa's been handcuffed and taken away—whew—but Uhmma's super-loyal to Apa, and she tails him in the cop car even though her face is completely bruised and misshapen.
    • In fact, she's so bad off that the police force her to go to the hospital.
    • She ends up with a lot of stitches and some broken ribs, but still Uhmma doesn't press charges against Apa.
    • Why? Because he's her "huh-su-bun."
    • The police hold Apa for the night.
    • The next morning, Uhmma and Young Ju go to pick him up, but Apa pretends he doesn't even see them.
    • Instead he hops in the car of some other Asian woman.
    • Yep—he's a cheater, too.
    • Uhmma's really mad; she turns to Young Ju and tells her it's all Young Ju's fault.
    • For months everything's a blur: Uhmma doesn't come home much because she has three jobs to juggle; all the work and stress makes Uhmma thinner and thinner—plus she's stopped eating; they don't even go to church.
    • When summer comes, Uncle Tim hires Joon and Young Ju at his ice cream shop on the beach.
    • Joon complains, but he still goes to work.
    • At the end of their day, both Joon and Young Ju get thirty dollars.
    • They pool the money, and Young Ju uses that money to buy their weekly groceries.
    • Super responsible, right?
    • Young Ju even gets to the point where she finds comfort in her chores, especially when she washes the rice every evening before cooking it.
    • She likes finding all the tiny seeds underneath and within all that murky water.
    • One night, while she's washing the rice, Uhmma sneaks up behind her.
    • Young Ju's wondering what Uhmma's doing home (she's on break), and Uhmma's wondering when Young Ju learned to make rice.
    • Young Ju's pretty nonchalant about the rice and says she's watched Uhmma do it enough times; Uhmma compliments Young Ju on her rice (clearly, rice is a big deal).
    • Then Uhmma starts talking about the real issue: Apa.
    • She lets Young Ju know that Apa's going back to Korea (or Han Gook) according to Gomo.
    • Plus Gomo's willing to borrow money to pay for their trip back to Korea… That is if they want to go with Apa.
    • That's not what Young Ju wants to hear—in fact, she's determined not to go with them as tears fall down onto the counter.
    • Then Uhmma gets honest.
    • She tells Young Ju that she shouldn't have blamed Young Ju for saving her; that it was her mistake, not Young Ju's.
    • Which is why she wants Young Ju to know that now's the time for her to do right by Young Ju.
    • They're not going back to Korea; they're going to be just fine without him.
    • Have you busted out the tissues yet?
    • Young Ju's getting all emotional (who wouldn't be?), with tears everywhere.
    • She rests her head on Uhmma's shoulders, and Uhmma tells her that Young Ju's her "strong girl."
    • Sniffle, sniffle, folks.
  • Chapter 30

    A Family of Dreamers

    • Picture a little plot of grass and a squat house with a low roof. A lot like a hen.
    • No, it's not Young Ju's old house in Korea—it's their new house in America.
    • Sure it's not much to look at and it's not one of those nice houses on the hill, but it's their own house, which they got without Apa.
    • Too bad Young Ju has to leave for college soon since they just started moving in.
    • Uhmma and she have to share a bedroom while she's home, but that's no biggie.
    • This house has its own dining room—something totally new for Uhmma—and there's even a spot for them to hang a chandelier if they want to.
    • They still have their old couch, but they've traded in that old sheet for a new blue sheet over the couch.
    • Uhmma wants to save money for a new couch, but right now they're wiped out because of the new house.
    • Uhmma's income from working at Gomo's new dry-cleaning business, plus Joon's money from his after-school job at Kinko's, plus Young Ju's money from tutoring all went to go buy this house.
    • And they still took out a loan from Gomo and Uncle Tim (which Gomo wanted Uhmma to take because, you know, they're family).
    • Good thing Young Ju's got a scholarship to college.
    • Now she's thinking about college: what if she can't make it there? What if people think she's like an alien?
    • But Young Ju stops herself and tells herself to get to work unpacking.
    • While they're unpacking some boxes, Uhmma and Young Ju find a pile of pictures.
    • One picture shows a young girl and boy in uniforms; the girl is Uhmma and the boy is her brother Song Won Ju.
    • That's news to Young Ju, who never knew Uhmma even had a brother (and she an uncle).
    • So that makes Young Ju wonder: how come they never hear about Uhmma's family?
    • Uhmma passes another photo to Young Ju, a picture of Uhmma's family.
    • Uhmma tells Young Ju that it makes her too sad to talk about her family since it makes her miss Korea.
    • Young Ju also figures out from looking at the picture that Uhmma came from a rich family—much richer than Apa's family.
    • Then Uhmma pulls out another picture: it's of Young Ju, Apa, and Uhmma at the beach in Korea.
    • Uhmma tells Young Ju that that was one of the best days of her life—it was the day that Young Ju learned how to jump into the waves.
    • Uhmma gets Young Ju to try and remember that day and who taught her to go into the waves.
    • Young Ju tries to remember and guesses Uhmma.
    • Nope.
    • Halmoni?
    • Nope.
    • Apa?
    • Yep.
    • It was Apa who taught her how to go into the waves. Note: this is super-major because now we know who the adult is in Chapter 1.
    • Young Ju's kind of stunned by this news because the person who taught her was so nice and encouraging—in other words, so not Apa.
    • But Uhmma reminds Young Ju that Apa was a different person back then. He was a dreamer, just like Young Ju—in fact, they come from "a family of dreamers."
    • Uhmma tells Young Ju to take that picture to college so that she can remember how she comes from "a family of dreamers."
    • The chapter ends the same way the first chapter ends, with this line: "I am a sea bubble floating, floating in a dream. Bhop."
  • Chapter 31

    Epilogue: Hands

    • You can probably tell from the chapter title that this chapter's all about hands, so get ready for a bunch of descriptions about hands—Uhmma's hands, Young Ju's hands, Joon's hands.
    • Uhmma's hands especially are the stars of this chapter.
    • They're old and lined because they've done so much, like: smooth the kids's foreheads; woken them up for school; sewn and boxed tons of jeans for one job before going to her night job at Johnny's Steak House; made a medium-rare steak with a baked potato on the side in ten minutes for hungry customers; washed dinner dishes; cleaned their kitchen floor; folded laundry; raised hems of dresses; held a Bible; set out doughnuts and coffee at church…You get the point, right? Her hands never rest.
    • But sometimes Uhmma's hands used to open up like a flower and Young Ju and Joon would take her hands and Uhmma would read their palms.
    • Okay, not exactly—she would tell them these stories about their futures over and over again for fun, which was a big hit with the kids.
    • Cue: major life lesson…
    • Uhmma used to tell Young Ju and Joon Ho to use their heads, not their hands.
    • You can tell that Young Ju and Joon Ho have done just this because their hands are smooth and tender—they're what Young Ju calls "the hands of dreams come true."
    • Now Young Ju's tracing the lines on Uhmma's hands.
    • They're walking along a beach.
    • Young Ju can pinpoint all the things Uhmma's done with her hands, even the time a knife cut her; Uhmma's hands, according to Young Ju, "have lived many lives."
    • But Young Ju wants to erase all of these lines because they're reminders of some serious history.
    • Uhmma though, tells Young Ju that they are Uhmma's hands.
    • Uhmma tucks Young Ju's hair behind her ear, and they continue their walk along the beach.