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Forgotten Country Hardcover – March 1, 2012

4.0 out of 5 stars 71 customer reviews

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Hardcover, March 1, 2012
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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Moving among feelings 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. Korean immigrant and grad student Janie, born Jeehyun, and her younger sister, Hannah, known as Haejin in their native tongue, struggle to maintain even the veneer of a sisterly bond as they at times gracefully float together, then violently come apart, throughout their lives. When Hannah abruptly disappears from the family fold, Janie is charged by their father with finding her and bringing her back. Haunted by childhood memories of her grandmother’s story about the family being cursed with lost sisters for generations, Janie feels compelled to find Hannah yet bitterly resentful as well. A second harrowing blow to the family lends urgency to Janie’s search while providing deeper introspection about the fragile and implacable bonds that hold a family together even across the seemingly impassable chasm of different cultures and changing generations. 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. --Julie Trevelyan


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

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

"Gorgeous . . . a heartbreaking story about sisters, family, and keeping traditions alive."

"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)

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

“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

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Books; First Edition edition (March 1, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594488088
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594488085
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.8 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (71 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,444,421 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Leeanna Chetsko VINE VOICE on March 5, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
If you've dealt with the loss of a parent or a close family member, "Forgotten Country" is a book that will hit home with you. In beautiful, descriptive, and sparse prose, we watch Janie deal with both her father's cancer and the disappearance of her sister.

Janie is trying to be the son her parents never had; she is getting a PhD in mathematics, following her father's dream. When her parents return to Korea to seek cancer treatment for her father, she goes with them. She also tries to find her sister Hannah, who vanished a year ago and hasn't contacted anyone. Janie's family has a legacy -- every generation, one daughter goes missing. Her mother lost her sister, and doesn't want Janie to lose Hannah.

Janie was my favorite character. I could really identify with her struggle of being the dutiful daughter, of feeling obligated to be there for her family. She is resentful of Hannah -- in Janie's eyes, Hannah shirked her family responsibilities by running away. By not being there, Hannah doesn't have to watch their father go downhill.

Hannah has her own reasons for running away, and I won't reveal them because I don't want to spoil the story. I found them slightly anti-climactic. There is also a part where Janie's PhD advisor comes onto her; I thought it was unnecessary, and distracted from the overall story.

I gobbled this book up. The heartbreaking story of Janie watching her father's cancer progress will suck you in, and there's a story within that story: the story of the family's past in a dangerous, divided Korea. Korean folklore is also woven throughout, which I liked as I hadn't read any of it before.

The book's design is also noteworthy.
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Format: Hardcover
Forgotten Country is a very emotionally moving novel full of heartbreak, betrayal, forgiveness, reunion, and death that spans many generations and two countries - America and Korea.

At the heart of this novel are two sisters born in Korea and raised in America by immigrant parents. Younger sister, Hannah, mysteriously leaves, and Janie has the burden and responsibility placed on her by her family to find her and bring her home. The girl's father has become ill, and the urgency to bring Hannah home is intensified.

All I can say is WOW! I read this novel straight through - only stopping to eat, sleep, and shower - and struggled to do so then!!! What a powerful story. So much wrapped up in the pages of this book - so much history - both for the country of Korea and the family involved. The family's past is so entwined in the history of Korea, and it follows them to America. The family dynamics is a very integral part of this novel, especially the connectedness with the generations that remain in Korea - grandmother, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.

I so felt for Janie. So many layers to this character. She has so much responsibility on her shoulders - placed there not only from herself, but her family as well. Her parents never had a son, so felt the pressure to take up many of the duties that a son would have. Always looking after her sister, following in her father's footsteps in her graduate studies, always doing as her parents asked.

Hannah was so different from her sister. She is so distant, so foreign throughout most of the story. Although her story is very deep, it is not until the end that we get to understand just where she is coming from.

Living in America we often take for granted how families work.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I give this really 3 1/2 stars. This is an interesting story of the relationships between sisters, fathers and daughters, and the history of a family that had to escape from their homeland Korea to the US only to face bias and isolation.

The author intergrates wonderful fables of Korea and the cultural history within this story of a family struggling to face the crisis of a terminal illness. Any reader who has lost a parent or loved one will understand as the family struggles to ease the patient's pain and come to terms with their own loss.

The author's research of the history and culture of Korea flowed smoothly throughout, and created characters to enhance the theme. The character I really connected with was Janie, the eldest daughter. I found the missing daughter, Hannah's story to be a minor part of this story despite the description of the book. I have to admit there were parts of this story that I caught myself "skimming" instead of reading. There are parts that are too detailed or do not contribute to the story, such as Janie's advisor for her thesis behavior towards her.

One fable that stayed with me was a mother went to Buddha and asked for a miracle to bring her dead child back to life. He advised that if she could bring him a blanket from a home that had not suffered any sorrow, he would perform a miracle. The mother went door to door trying to find such a home, but alas every home had it's own sorrow. the mother went back to Buddha and advised she learned his lesson...that no one can be spared loss, that this is the cost of life. I agree, but it reminds me that everyone has thier own story of loss and struggles, even if we are not aware of it.

This well written book is will not disappoint.
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