Forgotten Country

( 17 )

Overview


On the night Janie waits for her sister Hannah to be born, her grandmother tells her a story: Since the Japanese occupation of Korea, their family has lost a daughter in every generation, so Janie is charged with keeping Hannah safe. As time passes, Janie hears more stories, while facts remain unspoken. Her father tells tales about numbers, and in his stories everything works out. In her mother's, deer explode in fields, frogs bury their loved ones in the ocean, and girls jump from cliffs and fall like flowers ...
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Forgotten Country

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Overview


On the night Janie waits for her sister Hannah to be born, her grandmother tells her a story: Since the Japanese occupation of Korea, their family has lost a daughter in every generation, so Janie is charged with keeping Hannah safe. As time passes, Janie hears more stories, while facts remain unspoken. Her father tells tales about numbers, and in his stories everything works out. In her mother's, deer explode in fields, frogs bury their loved ones in the ocean, and girls jump from cliffs and fall like flowers into the sea. Within all these stories are warnings. Years later, when Hannah inexplicably cuts all ties and disappears, Janie embarks on a mission to find her sister and finally uncover the truth beneath her family's silence. To do so, she must confront their history, the reason for her parents' sudden move to America twenty years earlier, and ultimately her conflicted feelings toward her sister and her own role in the betrayal behind their estrangement. Weaving Korean folklore within a modern narrative of immigration and identity, Forgotten Country is a fierce exploration of the inevitability of loss, the conflict between obligation and freedom, and a family struggling to find its way out of silence and back to one another.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this beautiful debut novel, sisters Janie and Hannah demonstrate very different reactions to their Korean parents and heritage. The dutiful Janie has carried the weight of having to look after the more manipulative but possibly more lovable Hannah since childhood. Woven with tender reflections, sharp renderings of isolation, and beautiful prose, the story traces Janie’s and Hannah’s Midwestern upbringing. Tensions rise when Hannah intentionally disappears while away at college. Janie, haunted by her grandmother’s warning that in their family, a sister from each generation always vanishes, tries to find her, though Hannah makes it clear she doesn’t want to be found. Chung simultaneously shines light on the violence of Korean history, the chill of American xenophobia, and the impossibility of home in either country. “In Korea, couples dress alike to show the world that they’re together. Families, sisters, teams, groups—delight in wearing a uniform.... Here is the lesson: nothing is more important than belonging.” Though both sisters know this to be true, they struggle with how to make peace with one another and their past until an unanticipated trip to Korea allows everyone to see more clearly. Agent: Maria Massie, Lippincott Massie McQuilkin. (Mar.)
Library Journal
As Janie weeps over her first-ever separation from her mother, who is about to give birth, her grandmother admonishes her with the grave responsibility Janie must bear for her new sibling. "In our family…a sister always dies," her grandmother warns, sharing the horrific tale of her own infant sister's death during the Japanese occupation of Korea. Two decades later, living Stateside, Janie's family is in crisis: sister Hannah has severed family ties, while their father faces terminal cancer. Seeking the latest treatments, her parents return to Korea, charging Janie with bringing Hannah back. The sisters' devastating confrontation sends Janie alone to rejoin her parents and extended family, each scarred by the terrifying legacy of colonial occupation, war, dangerous politics, and a fractured country. VERDICT No argument that the prize-winning Chung writes elegiac, exquisite, multilayered prose, yet her debut ultimately falters between too much (self-absorption overload, cousin Gabe's death, sleazy adviser) and not enough (Hannah's disappearance, her uncle's silence). For greater satisfaction, readers might try Sonya Chung's Long for This World or Chang-rae Lee's The Surrendered.—Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon, Washington, DC
Library Journal - Audio
Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Prize winner Chung's debut novel is a richly drawn story of a family haunted by a generational curse that threatens the loss of a sister. One layer of the tale revolves around the pressure the curse creates along with the bond between Janie and her younger sibling Hannah. Another is their father's illness, which forces a return to Korea with both hope and desperation. The very realistic and moving drama is well constructed by this young author, who balances emotion with beautiful descriptions. Unfortunately, Emily Woo Zeller's narration suffers from oddly pitched voices, particularly of males and elders. VERDICT Despite narration flaws, this is recommended for all fiction collections. ["For greater satisfaction, readers might try Sonya Chung's Long for This World or Chang-rae Lee's The Surrendered," read the less-than-positive review of the Penguin Group hc, LJ 2/1/12.—Ed.]—Joyce Kessel, Villa Maria Coll., Buffalo
Kirkus Reviews
A young woman struggles to understand her sometimes-competing roles as daughter, sister, scholar and Korean American in Chung's darkly luminous debut.

Twenty years ago Janie and Hannah moved with their parents to Michigan to avoid reprisals by South Korea's then-authoritarian government against their brilliant mathematician father's incendiary political pamphlet. Janie, now a graduate student in mathematics in Chicago, has always grudgingly accepted the way her family considers it her responsibility as older sister to protect more openly rebellious Hannah. When Hannah drops out of college and takes off for California, cutting off communication with her traditionally tight knit family, Janie is furious. Then her father is diagnosed with a form of cancer best treated, ironically, in Korea. Dispatching Janie to find Hannah and break the news, her parents return to Korea. Janie finds Hannah thriving in Los Angeles. During a quarrel, Janie claims their parents are done with Hannah and tells her not to come to Korea. To Janie's surprise, Hannah acquiesces and stays behind. Janie arrives in Korea alone, claiming Hannah couldn't get away. Ensconced with her parents in a lovely Korean home and visited by devoted (if sometimes rancorous) family and friends, Janie develops a deeper appreciation for her parents' history, particularly her father's. His health seems to improve, and she luxuriates in his approval and her role as the good daughter. But when his condition suddenly worsens, Janie's mother calls Hannah herself. Hannah comes immediately, and, to Janie's chagrin, the family embraces her as if she never deserted it. As their father's health deteriorates, Janie and Hannah's sibling rivalry comes to a head, but their bond is stronger than either has recognized. Despite some missteps into clichés about abuse, Chung delves with aching honesty and beauty into large, difficult questions—the strength and limits of family, the definition of home, the boundaries (or lack thereof) between duty and love—within the context of a Korean experience.

Chung's limpid prose matches her emotional intelligence.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781609988173
  • Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.
  • Publication date: 7/10/2012
  • Format: CD
  • Edition description: Unabridged
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 5.90 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Catherine Chung was born in Evanston, Illinois, and grew up in New York, New Jersey, and Michigan. She studied mathematics at the University of Chicago and received her MFA from Cornell University. Chung is one of Granta's New Voices. She lives in Brooklyn. To learn more about Catherine Chung, please visit www.catherinechung.com.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 17 )
Rating Distribution

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(9)

4 Star

(6)

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Sort by: Showing all of 17 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 23, 2012

    I couldn't put it down.

    This book was riveting and beautifully written. I am so glad I read it :)

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 24, 2012

    A magnificent book by a major writing talent. The characters ar

    A magnificent book by a major writing talent. The characters are rich and enveloping and the story is gorgeous.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 18, 2012

    I really liked this book. Folk tales, mathematics, and interesti

    I really liked this book. Folk tales, mathematics, and interesting characters all work together to produce a fascinating family story. It is some of the best stuff I’ve read in a long time.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 8, 2012

    Overall good

    The book flowed nicely, however many of the characters could have gone deeper. I felt that just as soon as we were discovering the character the story was cut off. It seemed a bit contrived at times.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 19, 2012

    Good book

    Worth reading.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 7, 2012

    Amazing

    Amxing writing! Emotional and very well written! You can really hear her voice.

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  • Posted May 24, 2012

    Forgotten Country, is a novel that holds many stories. It is the

    Forgotten Country, is a novel that holds many stories. It is the story of two sisters who struggle to define themselves in relationship to each other, their family, and the cultures they’ve inherited and have grown up in. It’s the story of a family straddling two countries, languages, cultures, histories—of how they navigate what to hold on to, what to reach for, and what to let go. It is the story of two countries—America and Korea—with their separate and linked histories of violence, separation and reformation. But largest and most ambitious in this novel, is the story of all of us. It is the story of our flawed human selves, our vast human longings, our capacity for love, cruelty, error and redemption. “Each life contains as much meaning as all of history,” Chung writes in Forgotten Country. And as the stories swirl, slamming against and into each other, we’re pulled between the historical and the individual; we engage in the epic human quest of finding a place to belong and to call our own.

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  • Posted May 24, 2012

    Forgotten Country is stunning and poignant, gripping and beautif

    Forgotten Country is stunning and poignant, gripping and beautiful. Every page is a gem, every chapter a treasure. Catherine Chung brilliantly and delicately holds the reader in the palm of her hand and delivers him or her to a place that looks so much like this one, but is in every way different.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 25, 2012

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 16, 2012

    Beautifully written. The spare, poignant prose touched my h

    Beautifully written. The spare, poignant prose touched my heart, The characters are well-drawn and the plot well defined. The author intertwines myth and magic into a very touching family dynamic. .

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted April 14, 2012

    Sorry, too dull

    Kept waiting for something to happen.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 21, 2013

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 14, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted March 16, 2012

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 27, 2012

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 27, 2014

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    Posted May 1, 2013

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Sort by: Showing all of 17 Customer Reviews

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