Coin for a Dream – Mae Adams

Coin for a Dream - Mae Adams

Coin for a Dream: And Other Korean Tales is a sweet and fun collection of short stories tied to Korean culture and history. The author hears all these stories in her grandparent’s house, where she spends the first years of her life. The stories are short, all have a message of some sort and are diverse in topics. Although the stories mostly have a light theme, especially toward the end, you can also feel the heaviness and a more mature note.

Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.


Coin for a Dream: And Other Korean Tales

From Amazon:

Author Mae Adams’ latest book is a fascinating assembly of intriguing tales full of colorful characters such as monks and shamans, kings and queens, ginseng boys, grateful ghosts and magpies, and a host of others to entertain you and experience the wonders of ancient rites and cultures of Korea. While reading it, you will hear lepers sing for their supper, watch goblins wrestle, feel a tiger’s sorrow, taste snake soup, and touch a Taoist Immortal God’s hand. It will take your mind on an emotional roller coaster ride from grief to joy, tears to laughter.

Adams enchants readers with conversational stories with unexpected twists and turns from her perspective as a young girl, collecting tidbits and folklore from her grandparents and her life story. The myths, legends, and folk tales also have great importance and give us moral lessons we can apply in our times.

Coin for a Dream: And Other Korean Tales by Mae Adams - a review

About Coin for a Dream

I was familiar with some of the stories in this collection. Some were entirely new, while some reminded me of the stories in other mythologies, like Blood-Red Serpent Flowers, which has a pandan of sorts in the Greek story about King Aegeus and his son Theseus.

My favorite story is the one called Who Tolled the Temple Bells? I gasped and had to stop reading because of the shock and sadness of that story. It was told in such a simple way, but I think that added to the surprise in the end.

That’s another thing that’s worth mentioning. What I loved about this collection was the voice. The author listened to these stories in her childhood, so the language is simple and toned so a child can understand them. She maintained that childlike level of narrating to make the stories and the atmosphere more authentic.

Toward the end, we see glimpses of the author later in life and finally, as an adult that reflects on her past life. Having introduced us to this life of folklore and stories as a child and then closing that chapter in the present day, after a pause between the two periods, it brings Coin for a Dream full circle. We can really see how her childhood shaped her when we hear her adult voice.

As I mentioned before, even though the stories are mostly light and fun, viewing them as a whole, Coin for a Dream carries a certain heaviness. I felt this brief moment of sadness coming to the end of this book. That is also a result of saying goodbye, with the author, to that life and the people in it.

Korean Folklore in Coin for a Dream

The primary reason why I chose to read this book is because I’m fascinated with Korean culture and folklore. That’s why this book was the perfect match for me. I learned so much from Coin for a Dream. Many tales explain the zodiac, the good and bad omens, and the animals and their symbolism.

If any historical or religious facts are mentioned, the author always offers context and explanations, but in a way that doesn’t dull the stories. None of the information was overbearing toward where it would affect the reading.

If you’re looking for a book that’s a great source to get to know Korean culture and folklore but is also a fun and short read, this is the book for you.

Hope this post was fun! Will you be giving this book a try? Maybe you have some other recommendations for me on Korean culture and folklore? Let me know in the comments! 😀

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