Albert Bonniers förlag, 1997.
Reviewed by Lo Nathamundi in SBR 2015:1
Review Section: Lost Treasure
Astrid Trotzig’s book Blood is Thicker than Water was first published almost 20 years ago, and yet it seems just as intriguing and relevant, if not even more so, to the discerning reader of today as it must have been then. Her tale of what it’s like to grow up and spend her life as an adopted South Korean in Sweden defies all categorization. An easily-confused librarian might file the book under any number of subjects: memoir, travel writing, adoption studies, cultural studies, sociology, philosophy, essays, Sweden, South Korea.
After growing up and spending most of her life in Sweden, Astrid eventually makes the much-awaited trip from her second homeland of Sweden back to her original homeland of South Korea. Once there, she chronicles with the sharp eye of a journalist her own thoughts and emotions and her tentative (and often hilarious) encounters with basketball-playing Buddhist monks, Korean soldiers, octopi sneaking out of buckets of water to get away from old ladies at fish markets, Korean architecture, and everything in between. When it comes to first appearances, in Sweden, she often sticks out like a sore thumb, but feels right at home. In South Korea, on the other hand, she often blends right in, at least initially, but couldn’t be more out of place. She feels disoriented and lost most of the time, if not outright disappointed and disgruntled. She longs to go back home to Sweden. There is an old saying that the blood (of ancestry) is thicker than water. That may be the case, but as Astrid discovers along the way, and shares with her readers at the end of the book: love extends way beyond any national boundaries, and is much stronger than the boundaries and distance between two homelands.