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In 1953, on a remote island in South Korea, a young boy stows away on the ferry that is carrying his older brother and sister-in-law to the mainland. Fifty-two years later, Han Hyun-kyu is on a plane back to Korea, leaving behind his wife and grown children in America. It is his daughter, Jane—a war photographer recently injured in a bombing in Baghdad and forced to return to New York—who journeys to find him in the South Korean town where his brothers have settled. Here, father and daughter take refuge from their demons, unearth passions, and, in the wake of tragedy, discover something deeper and more enduring than they'd imagined possible.
Long for This World is a pointillist triumph—depicting whole worlds through the details of a carefully prepared meal or a dark childhood memory. But author Sonya Chung is also working on a massive scale, effortlessly moving between domestic intimacies and the global stage—Iraq, Paris, Darfur, Syria—to illuminate the relationship between troubled world affairs and personal devastation. The result is a profound portrayal of the human experience, both large and small. Long for This World establishes Chung as a thrilling new voice in fiction.
|Product dimensions:||5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.80(d)|
About the Author
Hillary Huber is a multiple Audie Award finalist, an AudioFile Earphones Award winner, and an AudioFile Best Voice. She has recorded close to three hundred titles, spanning many genres.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I'm familiar with Sonya Chung's writing and was prepared to enjoy the novel, but I was not prepared to experience such a broad and deep range of human relationships, cultural histories, and family bonds. The characters' voices are honest and vivid. Truly reminds me of Anne Tyler, Barbara Kingsolver, Alice Hoffman.
Sonya Chung's writing style is both challenging and clever as it weaves a many-faceted story from the viewpoint of numerous family members. I was very thankful for the outline of characters which she provides in the front of the book as without it I may not have been able to keep track of them, primarily because of the use of Korean names, all of which were unfamiliar and were difficult to memorize. But the story, and in particular her beautiful writing, it's style and language, make this a memorable and thought-provoking book exposing the tensions within each character and in their relationship to each other. The weaving of the story allows us to know the adults, children, males and females, on so many levels, to actually feel with them because we know them, and so do so without judging; it is the human condition brought into and out of focus as it changes, connects and reconnects to the characters throughout the story. Some passages are so uniquely beautiful that you want to claim them and preserve them.
There are those of us whose place on this earth is tenuous either because of physical or mental ailments. Modern science can help extend a life, or make life more bearable, but can it stave off the inevitable? What happens to the loved ones left behind? Sonya Chung's beautifully written debut novel introduces us to the Han family a cast of characters so alive they breathe with each turning of the page. Han Hyun-kyu (part of the Korean-American Hans), the second of three Han brothers, has spent most of his adult life in the United States, but has suddenly and without telling his wife packed a suitcase, left his home and headed back to Korea to spend time with his younger brother, Han Jae-kyu. The reasons for him leaving are illusive and inexplicable to his wife and daughter Ah-jin. Ah-jin is a successful photojournalist just back from Beirut where she lost hearing in one of her ears due to a horrific car bombing. Ah-jin's life is lived in suitcases going from one assignment to another. Never really laying down roots she's untethered by relationships and belongings. Her only responsibility has been to care for her brother Han-soo whom she has alternately cared for and intentionally forgotten because Ah-jin has always been the stronger sibling, and he the weaker. Ah-jin travels to the small Korean town to try to figure out why her father left. There we meet the Korean Han's-the hard working town physician, his dutiful yet distant wife and their pregnant daughter. Both sides of the family struggle to find what it means to be Korean/Korean American in the modern world. Both sides must also come to terms with being "long for this world" when those they love are not. Sonya Chung has written a novel that is at once a page turner yet at the same time one can't help but slow down the pace in order to revel in the perfectly placed words and phrases
Long for This World is bold and subtle, thought-provoking and entertaining. Page after page is filled with writing that made me think: Aha! I know that feeling, but could not articulate it (at all, let alone as beautifully), revealing the many layers that can course through a single moment. The story of the Korean American Han's and the Korean Han's covers a panoramic distance across the Americas, Europe, Africa, and Asia. Yet the story is not sprawling, it is deep and intimate, filled with the thoughts and feelings of an array of distinct and beautifully rendered characters. Although the main character Ah Jin (Jane) is a war photographer, and there are vivid scenes that take the reader into the war zone, the most dangerous moments in the story seem to occur during ordinary interactions; between a daughter and her mother, a sister and her brother, a husband and a wife. Much of the story takes place in a small town in Korea inland from the ocean, where "...there is little that happens here in the country, and yet the air moves, it is dynamic, taste and texture and life happen in the breeze." Although a lot happens in this story, we also get to experience what happens "in the breeze." Just like a stop-motion movie that shows a field of flowers blossom in the springtime, we get to see the inner shifts and changes inside the characters, the story takes us places we can't ordinarily go in real life. Even minor characters are rendered with finesse. Dr. Lee, as Jane calls her mother, is a remote woman, who (ironically) is more devoted to her psychiatric career than to her family. Jane is not close to her mother, yet she tries to imagine what her mother's life was like when she grew up. She imagines that Dr. Lee's mother was probably a woman chasing after social status and romantic affairs, disregarding her child, who later takes on the same self-absorbed traits. Through the thoughts of her daughter, even the selfish Dr. Lee is portrayed with complexity and tenderness. As I began to reach the end of Long for This World, I wished with every turning page that there were more pages (not less) ahead. In those final pages I was not prepared for how the story had grabbed me, how much I cared for the characters and wanted to spend more time with them, and how the final events would sweep over me emotionally. In Long for This World Sonya Chung beautifully captures the contradictions, the weaknesses and strengths, the love and hate that swirl together within people and within relationships, and that meld beautifully in this book, leaving the reader richer for having shared in this story.