The narrative [of Uncomfortably Happily] is surprisingly gripping…the mix of pathos and buoyant humor—as well as charming and three-dimensional characterization—keep you engrossed. Plus, the artwork is fantastic, mixing cartoony, almost Lynda Barry–ish figure work with stunningly evocative and impressionistic landscapes.Vulture
THE JOY OF FOOD AND TRADITION BRINGS A FAMILY TOGETHER
Madang is an artist and new father who moves to a quiet home in the countryside with his wife and young baby, excited to build a new life full of hope and joy, complete with a garden and even snow. But soon reality sets in and his attention is divided between his growing happy family and his impoverished parents back in Seoul in a dingy basement apartment. With an ailing mother in and out of the hospital and an alcoholic father, Madang struggles to overcome the exhaustion and frustration of trying to be everything all at once: a good son, devoted father, and loving husband.
To cope, he finds himself reminiscing about their family meals together, and particularly his mother's kimchi, a traditional dish that is prepared by the family and requires months of fermentation Memories of his mother's glorious cooking—so good it would prompt a young Madang and his brother into song—soothe the family. With her impending death, Madang races to learn her recipes and bring together the three generations at the family table while it's still possible. A beautiful and thoughtful meditation on how the kitchen and communal cooking—both past, present and future—bind a family together amidst the inevitable.
Umma’s Table is translated by Janet Hong, a writer and translator based in Vancouver, Canada. She received the TA First Translation Prize and the 16th LTI Korea Translation Award for her translation of Han Yujoo’s The Impossible Fairy Tale, which was a finalist for both the PEN Translation Prize and the National Translation Award, and longlisted for the 2019 International Dublin Literary Award. She has translated Ha Seong-nan’s Flowers of Mold, Ancco’s Bad Friends, and Keum Suk Gendry-Kim’s Grass.
Praise for Umma's Table
[Uncomfortably Happily] is a pleasure to read, with the creative and striking artwork and the focus on inner and outer struggles ensuring it’s an engrossing read.The Quietus
Uncomfortably Happily is a candid, engrossing tale…quietly charmingThe Atlantic
[Uncomfortably Happily is an] extraordinary comic-book memoir…Hong uses manga-influenced line work to bring the youthful enthusiasm of his characters to life. He anatomizes the quotidian details of marriage but also finds time for comedic flights of fancy, including frequent musical numbers.Slate
Hong’s drawings are beautiful and interesting, and there’s something successful about the melancholy tempered with realism that [his work] conveys.Paste
Brilliantly illustrated in black and white, which veers from minimal slices of everyday life to more intricate, elaborate flights of fancy…But for the most part, [Uncomfortably Happily] is full of levity.GQ