By Catherine Chung
(Riverhead Hardcover, Hardcover, 9781594488085, 304pp.)
Publication Date: March 1, 2012
Categories: Family Life
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A Booklist Top 10 First Novels of 2012 pick
A Bookpage Best Books of 2012 pick
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.
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.
“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)
“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 Surrendered and Native Speaker
“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
“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
“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
“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