Forgotten Country

Forgotten Country

by Catherine Chung

Paperback

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780594731412
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 03/05/2013
Pages: 304
Product dimensions: 5.16(w) x 7.95(h) x 0.78(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About 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. She is one of Granta’s New Voices, and lives in New York City.

What People are Saying About This

Justin Torres

I was left utterly devastated by the wonder and heartbreak captured in these pages. Forgotten Country is overflowing with folktales and family secrets, with American and Korean traditions, with haunting prose and mathematical beauty. Here is a book to cherish, and to celebrate. When I finished the last page I made a promise to myself to be more fearless and fierce with my love; it's that kind of book. (Justin Torres, author of We The Animals)

Chang-rae Lee

It is a rare novel — debut or otherwise — that can sing at once with such tenderness and ferocity, with such intense feeling and exquisite restraint. Forgotten Country is just that book, poetically crafted, shimmering with hard-won emotion, and wholly absorbing. A superb performance.

Cheryl Strayed

Forgotten Country is a richly emotional portrait of a family that had me spellbound from page one. Catherine Chung's beautiful and wise novel will haunt me for years to come. (Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild and Torch)

Alexander Chee

Catherine Chung is a writer whose first novel I've been waiting for, and her debut, Forgotten Country, more than fulfills what I hoped for—-a boldly imagined novel of Korea and America, of a curse between sisters and a family trying to outrun a war that will not let them go. Chillingly beautiful and magnetic, unforgettable. (Alexander Chee, author of Edinburgh)

Julie Otsuka

A heartbreaking debut novel that will leave you quietly shattered in its wake. Forgotten Country is an exquisitely rendered account of a Korean immigrant family divided by two sisters, two countries and a curse that spans generations. Catherine Chung has written a haunting meditation on family loyalty and the lingering legacy of war. (Julie Otsuka, author of When the Emperor Was Divine and The Buddha in the Attic)

Kate Walbert

A riveting, brutal portrait of two sisters in crisis, Catherine Chung's unforgettable debut is a work of enormous talent and heart. Written with compassion and insight, Forgotten Country examines the unspoken complexities of familial love and forgiveness, loyalty and betrayal, and renders an indelible, haunting image of Korea, past and present. (Kate Walbert, author of A Short History of Women)

From the Publisher

“Gorgeous . . . a heartbreaking story about sisters, family, and keeping traditions alive.”
People

“Luminous and surprising . . . [Chung’s] voice is fresh, her material rich, and Forgotten Country is an impressive, memorable debut.”
San Francisco Chronicle

“[A] lovely, elegiac novel . . . both heartbreaking and redemptive.”
The Boston Globe

"Chung indelibly portrays a Korea viciously divided but ever bound to history, myth, and hope."
O, The Oprah Magazine

“The unflinchingly honest examination of grief, anger, familial obligation, and love gives the novel a compelling emotional core.”
The New Yorker

“[Chung] is sensitive to the spontaneous combustibility of sisterly relations… [her] prose is crisp and unfussy.”
The New York Times

Forgotten Country is often wrenching, but Chung's graceful writing — replete as it is with delicately rendered family affections, snippets of Korean folklore and an unerring sense of storytelling — lifts the tragedies into the realm of lovely melancholia. The pain Janie feels with all of her discoveries isn't enviable, but the peace that the hard-swallowed wisdom brings her is touching and true.”
Minneapolis Star-Tribune

“A spare, haunting tale of loss, yearning and discovery.”
Reuters

“An inexpressibly beautiful story…Chung does a masterful job of weaving the past with the present, incorporating mythology and memory in ways that both captivate and haunt…If you read one novel this spring, let it be Forgotten Country. I cannot overstate the joy this book brings.”
The Rumpus

“In this beautiful debut novel…Woven with tender reflections, sharp renderings of isolation, and beautiful prose…Chung simultaneously shines light on the violence of Korean history, the chill of American xenophobia, and the impossibility of home in either country.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Moving among emotions, from reserved to exuberant and from easy joy all the way to devastating pain and loss, Chung’s superb debut examines the twin hearts of cruelty and compassion between sisters in particular and family in general…This elegantly written, stunningly powerful, simply masterful first novel should earn Chung many fans, especially among those who enjoy Amy Tan, Eugenia Kim, Lisa See, and Chang-Rae Lee.”
Booklist (starred review)

“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.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Beautiful…a masterful exploration of generational tensions within a Korean family on two continents…Chung is a remarkable writer, willing to dig fearlessly under her characters’ surface motivations. Her style is elegant but never clinical, and her judicious use of Korean folktales amplifies the themes of sacrifice, duty and expectation.”
BookPage

Forgotten Country is a remarkable debut novel, one that profoundly explores our connections to family, friends, and homeland.”
Largehearted Boy

“It is a rare novel — debut or otherwise — that can sing at once with such tenderness and ferocity, with such intense feeling and exquisite restraint. Forgotten Country is just that book, poetically crafted, shimmering with hard-won emotion, and wholly absorbing. A superb performance.”
—Chang-rae Lee, author of The Surrednered

“A heartbreaking debut novel that will leave you quietly shattered in its wake. Forgotten Country is an exquisitely rendered account of a Korean immigrant family divided by two sisters, two countries and a curse that spans generations. Catherine Chung has written a haunting meditation on family loyalty and the lingering legacy of war.”
—Julie Otsuka, author of The Buddha in the Attic

“Catherine Chung's wonderful first novel is a moving and deeply personal story of a family caught between two very different countries and very different lives.”
—Alison Lurie, author of Foreign Affairs

“Catherine Chung is a writer whose first novel I've been waiting for, and her debut, Forgotten Country, more than fulfills what I hoped for—-a boldly imagined novel of Korea and America, of a curse between sisters and a family trying to outrun a war that will not let them go. Chillingly beautiful and magnetic, unforgettable.”
—Alexander Chee, author of Edinburgh

"A riveting, brutal portrait of two sisters in crisis, Catherine Chung's unforgettable debut is a work of enormous talent and heart. Written with compassion and insight, Forgotten Country examines the unspoken complexities of familial love and forgiveness, loyalty and betrayal, and renders an indelible, haunting image of Korea, past and present."
–Kate Walbert, author of A Short History of Women

“I was left utterly devastated by the wonder and heartbreak captured in these pages. Forgotten Country is overflowing with folktales and family secrets, with American and Korean traditions, with haunting prose and mathematical beauty. Here is a book to cherish, and to celebrate. When I finished the last page I made a promise to myself to be more fearless and fierce with my love; it's that kind of book.”
—Justin Torres, author of We the Animals

Alison Lurie

Catherine Chung's wonderful first novel is a moving and deeply personal story of a family caught between two very different countries and very different lives. (Alison Lurie, author of Foreign Affairs)

Reading Group Guide

INTRODUCTION

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 stories, 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.

 


ABOUT CATHERINE CHUNG

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 CatherineChung.com

 


DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
  • How do you interpret the book’s title, Forgotten Country? What has been forgotten and how does that affect the characters and their decisions?
  • How do the folktales and past family histories woven together with the present-day narrative work together to tell a complete story?
  • Secrets and truth are hidden or revealed in varying degrees throughout the novel. What are some of these truths and secrets? What motivates the characters to hide the truth or seek it out?
  • Forgiveness, and the inability to forgive, is a theme that runs through the book. What is forgiven and what isn’t-and why? Do you agree with characters or not in what they choose to forgive?
  • Hannah and Janie argue about Simchung, the protagonist of Janie’s favorite folktale. Hannah says the tale teaches girls to sacrifice themselves. Do you think that’s a fair criticism? What else does the tale, as well as the others in the book, teach and how do you think growing up with folktales affected each of the girls? What stories did you grow up with and how did they help you form your identity?
  • Is there a hero in this story? Who would you say he or she is and why?
  • Have the sisters come to an understanding at the end of the story? How has their relationship changed? How has your own understanding of the family changed?
  • What is each character’s relationship to Korea or America and how do these relationships differ? To what extent does each character belong or not belong to his or her country, culture, or family?
  • Loss and sacrifice are major themes in the novel. How do you think loss and sacrifice bring the family closer together? How do you think they push the family apart?

Customer Reviews

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Forgotten Country 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 39 reviews.
Acaps More than 1 year ago
A magnificent book by a major writing talent. The characters are rich and enveloping and the story is gorgeous.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was riveting and beautifully written. I am so glad I read it :)
Beamis12 on LibraryThing 5 months ago
Another wonderful, heart rendering book by a new author. Starts in Korea, moves to the United States and than ends back in Korea. Much Korean history is related but the book is mainly about two sisters, a father and a mother. Does a great job of highlighting the complexity of a family, positions and roles within families and how easy it is to assume one knows things about a person only to find out years later one is wrong. Love the Korean stories and folk lore told by the girls Korean grandmother. This was an enjoyable if heartbreaking novel.
lawral on LibraryThing 5 months ago
This book started out strong. The mystery if why Hannah disappeared, Janie's relationship with her parents and her dissertation, the "lost daughter" of every generation. Unfortunately, these threads petered out through the course of the book. While the writing was beautiful and the tidbits about Korean and Korean-American life continued to be interesting, I lost interest in the story about half way through.Book source: ARC provided by the publisher through LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program.
rainpebble on LibraryThing 5 months ago
I quite liked this story of a Korean family who immigrated to America at the time of the war. We get to know the family of four with 2 sisters, in depth. We learn of their hardships, their homily beliefs, how they were treated by some Americans, their diets. I found it very interesting and I liked how Catherine Chung wrote this, her debut novel. She captures the way of life that the Koreans led and the sibling rivalry between the sisters very well. When the father becomes ill the parents decide it is time to return to the homeland and I loved her expressions and descriptions of Korea, the family there and all of the love and angst between family members, core and external. The estranged sisters remain behind in university. As the father's illness progresses the sisters return as well. Some of the families struggles are healed but not all.I don't find many novels written on Korea and I truly enjoyed this one and think that I learned quite a bit from it. I would like to read more Korean novels.I rated it a 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it.
revzonian on LibraryThing 5 months ago
I couldn't put this book down; I finished it in 5 hours. Yes, Catherine Chung writes well and "Forgotten Country" is fast-paced, and I found myself laughing, crying, and feeling angry at times. It is an interesting story about relationships (father-daughter, sisters, mother-daughter, grandmother-granddaughter). Makes a good bookclub selection.
punxsygal on LibraryThing 5 months ago
In this novel, a Korean family (mother, father and 2 daughters) leaves Korea for political reasons and moves to Michigan. Earlier, the night Janie's sister Hannah was born, her grandmother told Janie that every generation their family lost a daughter. Therefore, it was to be Janie's responsibility to keep Hannah safe. When the girls are of college age, Hannah leaves the family and disappears without notice. Janie's parents put the responsibility on her to find her sister and bring her back into the family. While the book was of interest from some of its cultural aspects, I became frustrated with all the secrecy of the individual members of the family. None of the bunch seemed to be very likeable and much remained unexplained or just carelessly brushed off.
upstairsgirl on LibraryThing 5 months ago
This is such a beautifully-written book that I hate to say anything bad about it. The sentences are gorgeous and the settings are brilliantly drawn. Chung clearly has a great deal of talent, and I love the way she uses language.The story itself, however, didn't strike a chord with me. Or perhaps it struck the wrong chord. Everyone in Jeehyun's life is horrible: her sister is a manipulative, self-centered brat, her parents are illogical and demanding, her extended family is even worse, and her thesis advisor is a lecherous cretin. There is literally no one in her orbit who will not find some way to be profoundly disappointed in her no matter what she tries to do. Around page two hundred, the reader realizes that this will never change, that Jeehyun will never get any kind of therapy, never set any boundaries, and never make anyone happy, and it was at that point that I realized I just wanted to finish the book so the story would be over and I could stop watching her be completely miserable. Towards the end of the book, after her father's death, Jeehyun reaches what feels like an epiphany, writing wise - the mood lightens, and the reader's stomach can finally unclench after 280 pages of emotional abuse and insane revisionist history - but it's unearned. She hasn't learned anything that would excuse the behavior of those around her; she hasn't learned how to separate herself from the rest of her family. There's a bizarre scene tacked into the last third of the book where Jeehyun's divorced thesis advisor invites her over for dinner and tries to hit on her; when that works out badly he immediately downshifts into telling her that her thesis idea is terrible and she'll never get her degree. This is the first and last time we meet him, and the issue is left entirely unresolved. In the end the end the beautiful writing wasn't enough to save this from being a frustrating and largely miserable experience for me, but I will definitely keep an eye out for Chung's work in the future.
JOANNEE on LibraryThing 5 months ago
Janie and Hannah are the daughters of a Korean couple who emigrate to Michigan as he was on an endanagered list due to the Japanese invasiion. The daughters endure taunting and bulling from their schoolmates and Hannah when of age, disappears. After twenty years the parents decide to return to Korea and give Janie the task of finding Hannah. Their father is dying of cancer and a great deal of the book dwells on his death. It is Chungs first book, well written but I found the latter half very depressing.
mzonderm on LibraryThing 5 months ago
At the outset, this book seems to be about a fairly ordinary Korean-American family. Although the younger sister has left town without telling her family where she's gone, her actions seem like an understandable act of rebellion (as opposed to the mystery the jacket-blurb would have you believe). In point of fact, she is relatively easily found and returned to the family fold, although the real reasons she left are frustratingly left un-fleshed out.Soon after we meet this family, however, it seems as though the book is really about cruelty. There are acts of cruelty perpetrated by the government, by spouses, sisters, parents, and other family members against one another. This part of the book is very difficult to read, not just because of the descriptions of cruelty, but because they were so unexpected after the book's opening, and because I never really understood why we were presented with so much cruelty. It doesn't seem to help us understand much about how the family interacts during the father's illness and decline, which takes up much of the book. Yet even here the story seems insubstantial and can't support the weight that the author seems to be trying to give it.There might have been more to this story if it had been told in multiple perspectives. But because it is told in the first-person of the older sister, a character who doesn't seem to grow or change, the book itself stagnates. By denying us the insights of any of the other characters, the author limits what the reader can get out of the book.
EmScape on LibraryThing 5 months ago
Having read the blurb and back cover, I expected this book to be about Janie's search for her sister, Hannah, and the unraveling of the curse that causes their family to "lose a sister in every generation since the Japanese occupation" of Korea. However, the book was much more about the family relationships and the father's cancer diagnosis and gradual decline. This is unfortunately the second book I have read this week about which the advance information implied a mystery to solve that was not delivered by the novel. On a related note, I wish publishers would just be honest about what the book is about. Most of us would read it anyway and for those who would not, I would think you'd prefer they skip it than have a negative feeling about your house or your author. /rantWhat this book did deliver was a touching and poignant relationship between father and daughter and between the two sisters. Both sisters had notions about each other, who was more loved, who was more free to be themselves, who had it better growing up, that turned out to not necessarily be the case. Their father's illness caused them to become closer and face some things about their relationship and also about themselves that they had been hiding from. I found Janie, the first person narrator to be genuine and relatable with actual flaws and a dynamic arc. The writing is beautiful and elegant, elevating the miserable and depressing parts about the father's illness and the sisters' ugly arguments. It also lends the anecdotes of past events (which there are many) a dreamlike and parable-like quality, which I would characterize as very Eastern. One other mildly irritating thing was the lack of proper names. Mother, Father, Grandmother, Uncle, "Big Cousin"...we never learn their real names. The narrator tells long anecdotes about her family referring to them only by their relationship to herself. At times this is awkward and confusing, particularly when telling a story that involves "my mother's grandmother" and "my grandmother's mother", who are, of course, the same person, as well as "my mother's grandmother's sister." Had the author given these people names, it would be more clear to the reader whom was being spoken of. We never even learn the narrator's last name.Besides this and the fact that there isn't really any resolution to the curse of the multiple lost sisters, I enjoyed reading about Janie and Hannah and their family. I was thrilled to learn more about Korea and the Korean way of life, which I don't know much about. My favorite parts were when Janie related some fable her parents or grandmother had told her when she was a child. I would recommend this book to fans of novels about family relationships, but not those who are expecting a good mystery.
boblinfortino on LibraryThing 5 months ago
I wanted to love Forgotten Country. Catherine Chung's style is very readable and her characters well developed. Her story of the maze that is family, the intricacies of relationships and the love that remains no matter what, should have been memorable. Instead it falls flat after the first half. The story ends as expected with no revelations or unforeseen insights. I'm surprised this book made it this far...it should still be on the editors desk. While Forgotten Country shows promise, it's not ready for publication.
Jcambridge on LibraryThing 5 months ago
This book was OK, but I don't feel the character development was complete for the central figures in this book. I think it needs more work before it goes on the market. Given the incident in the book involving a vicious attack on an Asian in Detroit, I did find it ironic that while I was reading the book, there was a flap about a Michigan candidate whose TV ad (featuring a young Asian woman riding a bike through the countryside) was viewed as promoting anti-Asian sentiments. I agree with the critics of that ad and feel this book could have done more to explore such issues of prejudice and the impact it had on the family.
debnance on LibraryThing 5 months ago
Janie and her family are estranged from everything that matters, estranged from their country of origin, estranged from their new home, estranged from their extended family, estranged from each other. Catherine Chung takes a look at the pain of estrangement and the desperate ways people try to bridge the gaps left by estrangement in this beautifully written novel, Forgotten Country.Highly recommended.
cameling on LibraryThing 5 months ago
Family. The intricacies of family relationships. Our families can define us, our families can destroy us, our families provide us with the roots with which to ground us, and our families love us. But for all the complexities behind family relationships, for all the cruelty and anger we harbor against some of them, there are ties that continue to bind and support us in times of need. Hannah is missing and her parents expect her older sister, Janie, to find her. Nobody knows where she has gone or why she's left without leaving them a message, or why she won't take their calls. But Hannah must be found before it's too late. Moving between the past and the present, we are gradually presented with a multi-branched family tree, each leafy branch holding its own story while linked to ancestral pasts.This story explores the relationship between a husband and wife, between parent and child, between cousins and between siblings. What do we do out of family obligations, whether or not they are misconceived? What indignities or injustices do we put up with because they've been inflicted upon us by a family member? And yet who do we reach out to or lean on when we have to face the harsh reality of a loved one's terminal cancer diagnosis?
melmmo on LibraryThing 5 months ago
The back of the book purports the story to be about the search for a lost sister, but it is so much more than this. It's a story of loss - several stories of loss all in the same family - loss of country, loss of identity, loss of family members by death, loss of family members by estrangement, loss of friendships, loss of home, loss of control, loss of a father, and ultimately loss of a mother as well. It is so beautiful - the language, the folklore, and the description of Korean landscapes - yet so much pain. An exquisite hurt.
Litfan on LibraryThing 5 months ago
This is a deep, beautifully written novel about a daughter caught between worlds: childhood and adulthood, the Korea where she was born and the America where she grew up. It is not a light-hearted novel, but it is incredibly engaging and difficult to put down even in its darkest moments. The novel centers around Janie's attempt to bring her younger sister, Hannah, back into the fold of their family. That storyline merges with snippets of Janie and Hannah's childhood, as well as family stories from earlier generations and Korean folklore. It's a beautifully woven tapestry that at its heart explores the meaning of home and identity and how it feels to be caught between worlds. It is a touching and thought provoking story, and would be a great read for a book club as it could generate a lot of discussion. Highly recommended.
epkwrsmith on LibraryThing 5 months ago
Forgotten Country by Catherine ChungMarch 1, 2012, Riverhead BooksFormat - oversized paperbackWhy? A Read-A-Long with Jenn (Devourer of Books) and Nicole (Linus's Blanket)....supposed to be posted on Feb. 28 :/What Now? I'll donate this one to the library...there are definitely parts here to remember, but this one won't be a re-read for me.Golden LinesMy father had always wanted a son. We women were unreliable creatures, prone to fits of emotion and flights from logic that generally ended with him at the receiving end of a pointed finger. "Yes!" he'd said, when I told him I'd decided to study math. He reached out his hand and said, "Shake!" While he pumped my hand up and down, he said, "Math lasts."Long ago, when she was a child, families of dissidents had been driven to churches and town halls and burned into piles of ash. You breathed in that ash, my grandmother told me. It covered your skin. You held that ash inside you: it coated your lungs. It clung to your eyelashes and settled on your hair. My parents loved us. I never doubted that. But sometimes I still wonder if they would have traded me in for the son they wanted. I never asked. I did know that my mother aborted two girls before she refused to keep trying, and that her refusal sparked a coldness between my parents that lasted for years."Jeehyun," she said, lying down next to me on my twin-size bed. "You must not be like me. When you are a wife, do not fight. Obey your husband. Fulfill his wishes. Bear him a son. Jeehyun? Are you listening? Earn his love.""...regardless of whether we die today or fifty years from now, life is always transient, and true enlightenment is letting go.""I think joy can stop time," my father said. "I think joy can do the trick." Satisfied with this answer, he nodded his head, lowered himself back down, and closed his eyes again.I turned to look at him, my father half sunken in the grass, the blades pushing up around him. The sun in his eyes, the light all over him, and the grass, and the arms of trees meeting overhead. He was smiling with his eyes closed, pleased with his answer, pleased with himself. I felt the weight of it upon my chest. Yes, I thought. Joy can stop time with the force of its insistent, incomprehensible weight.My whole life I had always belonged to my family, and there had been comfort in the belonging. I'd always thought Hannah and I were irrevocably entangled: the connection always between us no matter how far she went. I had spent my whole life afraid that I would be bound to her, responsible. I had been afraid my family would never let me go.SummaryJanie (Jeehyun), Hannah (Haijin) and their parents lead a very complicated life as Korean immigrants trying to assimilate into American culture while holding on fiercely to their own. Janie is the oldest and bears the weight of firstborn responsibilities on her shoulders. Those responsibilities include keeping up with her troubled sister who decides early on in the novel to disappear. Their family's forced exile is lifted when their father becomes ill and needs to return to Korea for treatment and to live out the last days of his life. Janie once again has to negotiate her own personal demons, her professional life and struggles with those of her parents, the knowledge that she is slowly losing her father, and her angry sister who hates everything their family stands for.What I LikedAt times I was reminded of Maxine Hong Kingston's Warrior Woman...but there seemed to be more holes in Chung's story...I can't really put my finger on it yet...the old stories told by family members...both true and legend. The stories help outsiders such as myself see things as much as possible from another perspective. We all grow up with stories...those stories make us who we are. Sometimes we forget that other people have very different stories that they believe just as much as we believe our own.the story of how Janie and Hannah's parents met was my fav
ElizabethChapman on LibraryThing 5 months ago
In Forgotten Country Catherine Chung tells a story that is both utterly specific to a particular family, and viscerally recognizable as common to all families. The common elements are, well, common. The mysteries of the adult world ¿ and the past ¿ as seen by children; the bonds and competition between siblings; the ties between generations and the rebellion against those attachments; betrayal and devotion; reversals and constancy; and finally, the inevitability of death and the compulsion to carry on.The specifics hinge both on the personalities of this individual family and the twists of Korean history -- from the 1919 rebellion against Japanese rule, to the division of Korea into two separate countries in 1948, to today when South Korea has industrialized and become a global economic power. The narrative takes place largely in the modern day, in both the U.S. and South Korea, but the past is ever present. Destiny, and the desire (or necessity) to break with it, infuses every page.Chung¿s story could have dissolved into cliché or histrionic drama, and it skirts that edge a few times. But her beautiful writing and delicately entwined shifts in chronology make Forgotten Country an exceptional first novel. I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys fiction that explores characters¿ interior lives or has a taste for compelling story telling.
amandacb on LibraryThing 5 months ago
I rather enjoyed Chung's easily-flowing writing style; however, the quick pace of the novel did nothing to bolster the story's appeal. I did not feel as if the author delved deeply enough into any of the characters to create any real feeling of roundness. Also, the title has nothing to do with the story. There are tales of Korean folklore woven throughout the story, but nowhere is Korea "forgotten."
readingfiend on LibraryThing 5 months ago
Janie is the oldest of two daughters in a Korean family. She majored in math to please her father. Her sister Hannah becomes increasingly angry as she becomes a teenager and eventually disappears from the family. Around the same time Their father is diagnosed with cancer and the parents move back to Korea for better treatment. The parents insist that Janie find Hannah and so she spends alot of time calling and looking for her. Eventually she finds out where she is and meets up with her and it doesn't go very well.Janie and her sister end up in Korea as well and they deal with relatives, their father's illness and each other.I liked this book but it jumped back and forth between when they first lived in Korea, when they moved to Korea and then when they moved back and sometimes I couldn't figure out immediately when it was. I didn't feel like it focused much on "the family losing a daughter in every generation" as the description on the back said. I kept waiting for it - then it was there but not really detailed. That's ok, because I still enjoyed reading it.
gbelik on LibraryThing 5 months ago
This is a touching family story of separation (both from country and family) and of connection. Janie is the Korean/American daughter who always tries to do the right thing and who tortures herself for mistakes made. Her younger sister Hannah leaves the family without notice. The family is reunited and back in their homeland of Korea to await the father's death. We are gently led back in time to know the family's history in Korea and of their move to Michigan. I enjoyed this book and getting to know this family. I did feel that Hannah could have been developed better; she remained somewhat of a mystery to me. Otherwise, I thought the characters were wonderfully well developed, including some of the less major family members. Generally, he writing is straightforward and clear. At several points, I found it sensitive and poetic. Though it is generally a sad story, I'd recommend it as a well-developed and sincerely felt tale of real people living a real life.
jenngv on LibraryThing 5 months ago
This reads like a memoir, but is very interesting and I am enjoying it.The author does a good job of making the family members believable.Having just lost an aunt to cancer, I can surely relate.
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