America is what's supposed to be a step from heaven for the Park family, when they emigrate there from Korea. Young Ju's family makes its way to the US when she is about four, if I remember correctly. The early parts of the novel, which chronicles her life until just before she leaves for college, are impressionistic, conveying how one's memory of childhood comes in flashes, not narratives. The telling remains episodic, though of course it gets clearer as Young Ju matures. Sometimes I don't like that kind of writing, but in A Step from Heaven it's just how she tells a sometimes painful story. Even the reader needs a little literary distance from Young Ju's abusive father, and from seeing the abuse turn Young Ju's American-born brother Joon Ho into a monster, as well.