Concerning My Daughter by Kim Hye-Jin

Concerning My Daughter is a novel about a woman whose thirtysomething daughter moves back in with her, bringing along her girlfriend and forcing the mother to face up to what she wants for her child. Translated from Korean, the narrative follows a woman who works in a care home, where she looks after a patient with dementia whose has no family but was well-renowned when younger. When the woman’s daughter Green needs to move in with her, bringing along her girlfriend Lane, the woman finds it hard to be civil, wanting her daughter to get married and have children. Her fears are complex, revolving not only around the life she had, but on the treatment of her elderly patients without children to fight for their care.

This is an intriguing book, very simple in narrative and premise (traditional, homophobic mother struggles with how to deal with daughter), but also powerful in how it shows the impact society and tradition can have on viewpoints, and the intersection of different kinds of crises (in this case, care of the elderly and homophobia). It can be painful to read at times, repeating the protagonist’s obsession with her daughter not having a ‘real’ relationship, and the depiction of the care of the elderly can be brutal, but there’s also tenderness underneath, for example the glimpses of Green and Lane’s relationship even only through the eyes of someone who won’t accept it.

A lot of the key elements of the book are things that cross over many cultures and countries, particularly in terms of changing kinds of families and how various groups of people (including older people and LGBTQ people) outside of a traditional norm are treated. Some people might not like the simplicity of Concerning My Daughter and other people might find it too difficult to read the mother’s perspective and her inability to listen about what kind of life her daughter wants to read, but it’s a powerful look at a character struggling with the position of different women in society and how love can make people misguided.