Gina Chung’s Sea Change is a touching story that explores themes of family dynamics, loss and grief, love and friendship, and self-acceptance. The protagonist, Ro, is a flawed character, which makes her all the more real and relatable. Her struggles stem from past trauma and her tendency to be hard on herself, which hinders her from investing in her personal relationships and leads her to turn to alcohol as a coping mechanism.
Table of Contents
Sea Change Description:
Short Summary of the Novel:
Ro, also known as Aurora, has worked at a local aquarium for over eight years in the field of animal husbandry. However, her love for marine life was instilled in her by her father, a marine biologist who disappeared on a research trip fifteen years ago. Ro feels a special connection to Dolores, a giant Pacific octopus that was one of her father’s finds. Ro believes that Dolores can understand her and vice versa, making her attachment to the sea creature even stronger. Ro misses her father dearly and hopes that one day he will return.
Ro’s relationship with her mother is strained, and her best friend Yoonhee seems to be distancing herself from Ro as she plans her wedding. Ro is also struggling with loneliness after her recent breakup with Tae, who was selected for a mission to Mars. As the narrative moves back and forth between the past and present, we learn about Ro’s Korean immigrant parents and their troubled marriage, which has impacted how Ro perceives commitment and relationships.
Adding to Ro’s unhappiness, the aquarium is negotiating the sale of Dolores to a private buyer who wants to add the giant Pacific octopus to his private collection. The aquarium is hard-pressed for funds, and the sale of Dolores seems like the only solution.
The narrative follows Ro as she navigates through all the changes occurring in her life, deals with past trauma and disappointments, and rethinks her priorities. She must find a way to accept all that has happened and make plans for her future. Ro’s love for marine life and her connection with Dolores help her find the strength to move forward.
In conclusion, Ro’s story is a heartfelt tale of loss, love, and personal growth. The narrative explores themes of family, friendship, and self-discovery. Ro’s character is relatable and endearing, making her journey all the more impactful. The story is a must-read for anyone who enjoys a good coming-of-age story with a touch of magical realism.
Our reaction when we read this novel:
One of the most compelling aspects of the novel is how the author addresses the complicated relationship between Ro and her mother, or Umma, and the factors that have contributed to their strained relationship. The novel is also rich in its descriptions of the animals at the aquarium, with a particular focus on sea animals and cephalopods. Through Ro’s interactions with these creatures, the author highlights the importance of kindness and compassion in our relationships with all living creatures and the environment as a whole.
The novel also touches on the impact of environmental pollution and climate change on marine animals, underscoring the urgent need for action to protect our oceans and the creatures that inhabit them. While I would have liked to see more scenes with Dolores, the giant Pacific octopus that Ro feels a special connection to, the novel is ultimately centered around Ro’s journey of self-discovery and growth.
The author masterfully balances the melancholic and depressing tone of the novel with moments of humor, and the story ends on a hopeful note. This is an impressive debut novel, and I look forward to reading more from Gina Chung in the future. Overall, Sea Change is a moving and thought-provoking read that will leave a lasting impact on its readers.
About The Author:
Gina Chung is a talented Korean American writer hailing from New Jersey, now residing in New York City. She has been awarded the esteemed Pushcart Prize and is a 2021-2022 Center for Fiction/Susan Kamil Emerging Writer Fellow. Additionally, she holds an MFA in fiction from the New School. Chung’s works have appeared in numerous publications such as Kenyon Review, Catapult, Electric Literature, Gulf Coast, Indiana Review, and Idaho Review, among others.
In addition to her debut novel, Chung is also the author of the upcoming story collection Green Frog, which will be published by Vintage. With her impressive literary achievements and captivating storytelling, Gina Chung is a writer to watch out for in the future.