A review by saguaros
I Want to Die but I Want to Eat Tteokbokki, by Baek Se-hee


I saw this book on a few recommendation lists and picked it up thinking it was a novel and sorely based on the fact that I, too, love tteokbokki. I quickly saw that it was a memoir and even though I’m not really into that kind of memoir, I figured I’d give it a go since it was so short anyway.

It’s not good. It just isn’t. I am so mad that the bulk of the book is basically transcripts of therapy sessions between the author and her psychiatrist. That’s it. Not prettified into prose or anything, just. Transcripts. It’s the fucking laziest bullshit. And the thoughts around each chapters are diary-like and so simple I wanted to scream. Look, not everyone is gonna have amazing prose or offer deep thoughts on everything, but this felt almost… childish in its simplicity. I won’t blame the translation, I think this is just how the author writes. The last chapter is a collection of very short essays on various subjects that, honestly, she failed to make interesting (but also at that point I was pretty done with the book—however short it is—and had emotionally checked out).

2 stars because it feels weird to one star a memoir—especially one about mental health—but also because despite what I mentioned, there were a few insights in there that I appreciated, and also I admire the vulnerability it took to publish this, of letting the world see your most ugly thoughts and struggles. I also appreciated that ultimately the book was honest about the limitations of therapy and medication and honest about the ups and downs and inconsistencies of healing.