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Long for This World: A Novel Hardcover – March 2, 2010


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; First Edition edition (March 2, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416599622
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416599623
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,223,418 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

When Han Hyun-ku appears on the doorstep of his younger brother's home in Korea nearly 40 years after he immigrated to America, the far-flung members of the Han family find their lives unexpectedly intersecting in this elegant debut novel. Han Hyun-ku's adult daughter, Jane, a photojournalist who narrowly escaped death from an explosion in Baghdad, follows her father to Korea, inwardly pleased that he has left behind her alcoholic, self-centered mother. Meanwhile, Jane cannot shake her memories of the harrowing experience that ended her longtime relationship with her ex and sent her to Baghdad. In Korea, Han Jung-joo, Han Hyun-ku's sister-in-law, accepts the arrival of these unexpected guests with her usual serenity, but as her worry for her pregnant, troubled daughter grows, the household begins to break apart. Han Jung-joo's younger brother, a divorced artist, arrives, precipitating events that change everyone's lives forever. Switching deftly between different characters' points of view, Chung portrays with precision and grace each character's struggle to find his or her place in the family and in the world. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Library Journal

The title of Chung's exquisite novel seems to be missing a word: "not long for this world" would be the easy, expected phrase. But little is easy or expected in this multilayered story of two brothers—one Korean and the other who chooses to become Korean American—and their scattered families, whose lives converge in a perfectly blended East/West house on a faraway Korean island. When Han Hyun-ku unexpectedly arrives at his younger brother's home, he is escaping an American life circumscribed by a detached wife and troubled son. His exhausted daughter, Jane, a renowned photojournalist of death and destruction, follows her missing father. Strangers that they are even among family, father and daughter are gratefully absorbed into a seemingly easy rhythm, but the temporary peace cannot ease inevitable tragedy. "Some people are not long for this world," Jane remarks. "The rest of us survive." VERDICT Readers who enjoyed superbly crafted, globe-trotting family sagas such as Kamila Shamsie's Burnt Shadows, Naeem Murr's The Perfect Man, or Changrae Lee's A Gesture Life will swoon over Chung's breathtaking debut. —Terry Hong, Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program, Washington, DC

More About the Author

Sonya Chung's short fiction, reviews, essays have appeared in The Threepenny Review, BOMB Magazine, Crab Orchard Review, and Sonora Review, among others. She is a Pushcart Prize nominee and recipient of the Charles Johnson Fiction Award and the Bronx Council on the Arts Literary Residency and Fellowship. She teaches fiction writing at the Gotham Writers' Workshop and New York University, and she is a regular contributor at the literary blog The Millions. In fall 2010 she will join the full-time faculty of the Creative Writing Program at Columbia University.

LONG FOR THIS WORLD is her first novel.

Photo credit: Robin Holland

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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I can promise you that this novel speaks from its intelligence to your own.
Nina Goss
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.
nycwriter
I am grateful for the opportunity to be exposed to it and highly recommend it to any lover of literature.
Caleb's Mom

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Gregory A. Zuroski on April 9, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I was introduced to Sonya Chung and her first novel, Long for this World, at a bookstore author appearance and I anticipated liking it. Still, I was really impressed by how good it is and how compelling the characters and the story are.

The story is that of the members of the Han family, some of whom have emigrated to the United States and some who have remained in Korea. Told from the perspective of Jane, an American-born daughter of immigrants, it develops the personal stories and the emotions of a handful of characters and in so doing, explores a number of themes including: the Korean-American experience; the immigrant experience; family and sibling relationships; friendship and attraction; and ultimately, on how the currents on which our lives float are formed by people and events around us, some close and some at some distance in time and place.

The portrait of Jane, the narrator, a photojournalist, is a real achievement. I was interested in her as soon as the story began and she just kept becoming more fascinating throughout the book. Making her a photojournalist and in fact a war correspondent was a very good artistic decision. It allows the author to describe events and characters visually within the media of a novel that is after all created of words and in that way, abstract. Jane views the world through a camera's lens and we see it framed in ways that she chooses. It is a very effective device. At her presentation, Ms. Chung indicated that she had worked hard to render this character realistically despite the fact that she herself had little personal experience with photography or photojournalism before researching for the book.

There seems to be conversation at how this book speaks to female readers especially.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By nycwriter on March 21, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By John F. Lehman on March 8, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Long for This World by Sonya Chung, Scribner, 270 pages

Reviewed by John Lehman of [...]

Let me be upfront with you, this is a beautifully written story that takes concentration. It is layered both in subject matter and in emotion. It's one where you dog-ear the "Main List of Characters" at the beginning of the book and return to it often. Sections of chapters not only change setting, but sometimes countries and time periodS. At first I found this complexity a fault, wished the author had spared me her pointillist approach, but then about half-way through the parallel lines start to intersect and like a masterful poem it is not longer someone else's story, it is our own.

As a Westerner (who has been to Korea) there is a tendency to think of the East in a feng shui kind of way. As Sonya Chung says of Han Jung-joo, one if the troubled women in Korea whose husband is a prosperous doctor and whose troubled daughter dies while pregnant, "One must focus on the tiny actions that make up the events of one's life. .. If one tends to the small things, the larger things fall beautifully into place; order is created and maintained." Except that it doesn't happen like that, at least in the way we expect it will.

Another surprise is that the author does an equally good job with understanding the males of the story as with the females, the young and the old (though the interchange between the American, Ah-jin and the daughter of her mentor concerning mothers and daughters occasioned by a photograph of a young Kenyan girl who'd undergone female genital mutilation is exquisite. Such dynamics are the heart and soul of this book which isn't afraid to ask questions like, what is home, family, love, and gives us the courage to ask them of our own experiences.
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