Published April 9, 2019

A woman recounts how she conquered the male-dominated world of competitive shooting in this debut memoir.

Koo does not fit the usual profile of an expert pistol shooter. Her race, gender, and age all make her something of an outlier, but this has not kept her from becoming a record-setting winner at “the NRA National Action Pistol Championship, known as the Bianchi Cup.” The Hong Kong–born, San Francisco–raised Koo did not even begin shooting until her late 40s, and so this memoir has quite a bit to cover of the champion’s life before she ever picked up a gun. She discusses her early years in China and the experience of immigrating to California, where her conservative parents continued to keep a traditional Chinese household. She describes meeting her future husband, Carlos, with whom she would raise children and start a real estate business—though both those things included significant strife and tragedy. Koo alternates between recounting a career-threatening accident in 2013 and her subsequent recovery and trials from earlier in her life: the death of one of her children in infancy, her husband’s extramarital affair, and her first firearm safety class, which she enrolled in specifically to allay her fear of guns. Throughout her meteoric rise in the world of shooting, she reaffirmed her faith in God, her family, and herself—a woman who never allowed men to determine her place in the world. With the help of debut author Pahl, Koo tells her story in accessible, precise prose that mimics her controlled persona while nevertheless displaying some affecting cracks: “I couldn’t stop looking at the photo. As I stared at it, I started to shake uncontrollably. I felt like my legs had been cut out from beneath me. Who was the woman, and what was she doing with my husband?” Readers acquainted with Koo’s shooting career will likely be especially interested in this book, but much here is familiar and universal. As an immigrant, mother, and wife committed to her family business, Koo will likely remind many readers of close relatives or themselves.

An intriguing account with insights into competition and control.

Original review can be found here.