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Forgotten Country

3.46 of 5 stars 3.46  ·  rating details  ·  1,789 ratings  ·  378 reviews
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
Hardcover, 296 pages
Published March 1st 2012 by Riverhead Hardcover
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For all that I grew up surrounded by those who can trace their lineage back to the so called East, a geographic hilarity when considering which side of the Pacific the United States finds itself on, I very rarely read their literature. Lahiri, Tsukiyama, Ozeki, a pitiful number when considering the hoops I've gone through to read those from other continents, some of them even translated to boot. Maybe it is a subconscious 'Oh, I've immersed myself in that type already', but when considering the ...more
Don't you just hate reading a book thinking its about one thing when it's really about something totally different?? Another Reader pet peeve, if you will. The jacket of the book mentions the bond of two sisters, and how the family has a curse-- one sister always gets "lost". The key is the family secret left behind in Korea. The book did include minor pieces of sisterhood and a "family secret" but more than anything else it was about family. A family split apart by cancer. The patriarch of the ...more
From the first chapter alone, it was clear that this book was going to be tremendous. I could not wait for it to come out. And, luckily, I didn't have to. I just finished a galley copy, and it is fantastic.
The writing reminded me of aspects of both Shaker furniture and Ishiguro's best works---it was perfectly crafted, dealing with big themes in an understated and unadorned but rich and beautiful manner. And the characters broke my heart in the best way possible.
Disclaimer: I received a free review copy from LibraryThing's Early Reviewer Program

I found this book extremely well-written, but I never really connected with it except on a very superficial level. Janie, the narrator, was very sympathetic but not very empathetic. She was very... flat. Her emotions and motivations never shone through the story. Hannah, her sister, was this great mysterious void, but once she showed up in the plot again shrank into the background.

Throughout the book, I wanted m
May 25, 2012 Catherine rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  (Review from the author)
I wrote this--I hope you like it!
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.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
I received this book from a goodreads giveaway;

I was under the impression that this book was going to be about Janie's search for her younger sister, which it isn't really.
Instead, I was met with a young Korean-American woman, who reminisced about her times as a childhood and other family stories. (I am secretly grateful it wasn't a mystery novel after all.)
Janie's devotion to her heritage and family is tested, however its not really a book about how she came out stronger or better or smarter,
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
the reviews & jacket copy for this book were very misleading. check them out--they say thatjanie's sister hannah mysteriously "goes missing" & in the process of searching for her, janie stumbles across a "family secret" about how every generation of her family "loses a daughter". i was definitely anticipating more of a mystery--about the lost daughters, about hannah's disappearance...about anything.

instead, this is a book about two adult daughters & a wife standing vigil while the pa
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 see
Oh my GOD. So good. Bleak but beautiful. Wow.
This is a gorgeously written debut novel with lovely insights into the complicated relationships between sisters, between husbands and wives, between parents and children. Interwoven throughout the family story are beautifully rendered Korean folk tales and fables. I'm not going to use this review to outline the plot or analyze the characters, I'm simply going to quote one of the many passages that dazzled me with its language and imagery and see if you can resist wanting to read this book:

"I s
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 ...more
Janie takes her role as eldest daughter seriously in “Forgotten Country,” Catherine Chung’s debut novel about a family that comes to the United States, out-running potential political persecution in their home country, Korea.

Hannah, her younger sister, has a bit more moxie. When the family’s traditions start to weigh her down, she runs away to California without leaving a forwarding address. Janie’s resentment toward her grows when their father is diagnosed with cancer and eventually decides to
Jun 24, 2012 Candice rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Ellen
This was a beautifully written book of a family dealing with losses. Janie's parents immigrated from Korea to America when she and her sister Hannah were young children. Now Janie is in graduate school and Hannah is a college sophomore. When Hannah disappears without a word, it seems that the story of each generation losing a daughter is going to come true. Then their father is diagnosed with cancer and decides to return to Korea for treatment. Janie suspends her studies and travels to Korea to ...more
Rita Chin
This is the most beautiful book I have ever read. It's one of those rare books that has changed me for having read it and has stayed with me in such profound and unexpected ways. FORGOTTEN COUNTRY tackles themes of love, loss, familial bonds and loyalty, immigration and the ways in which "home" can both hold and betray us, and the human capacity to rise and to heal-- with boundless grace, stunning precision, hauntingly gorgeous imagery, and a quiet ferocity that will break your heart. Luminous, ...more
☔Diane S.
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 grandmothe ...more
This book is breathtaking, heartbreaking. It is charming and smart and pretty, complex and thoughtful, just like its lovely author (admission of slight bias here). I'll write more at some point, but right now I'm just so impressed by the work and sad to know I can't read it for the first time ever again. I'd take this lovely story of a family, with two sisters and their personal and ancestral histories at its large heart, over Egan's Goon Squad any day of the week. I'm smitten with the book.
Catherine Siemann
This novel is beautifully written. Its exploration of the family dynamic in a Korean immigrant family is sensitive and very real -- nobody is entirely likable, nobody is entirely to blame. People looking for resolution, for clearly drawn lines, will not like the book, but the author does a wonderful job of exploring the complexities of real life.
Jedi Kitty
Yikes, I was hoping for a soulful book about South Korean-American women and family. Instead, I got a bleak, detached and depressing ride through a cruel world where every woman gets hurt and every symbol is of death.

Why is the cover pink and baby-blue with flowers and yarn-like patterns? VERY MISLEADING. Give this book the serious, somber cover it deserves!

Janie and Hannah grew up in Michigan, but their family immigrated to the US from Korea. Janie's college-aged younger sister Hannah has gone
Two sisters and their parents lived in Korea, but fled to America in a matter of days when their father had published a brochure to proclaim a Korean Democracy. The tension between the parents was always evident; The mother missed Korea, could not adjust to American ways, and blamed the father for their abrupt departure. Their father was a superior mathematician and would have been revered in his home country had he not become involved in politics.

The older sister was bullied in school because
There are few books that grab me and hold me so tight within the first few pages, but Catherine Chung's Forgotten Country managed to do it so easily. I'm still wondering why. It might have something to do with my being Korean-American, but more than that, there's that sense of family that runs deep into the veins of this story.

The novel is a mix of Korean myth, folktale, and history folded into the story of a family caught between two different cultures. As I read it, I found myself seeing it mo
Lauren K. Alleyne
Forgotten Country, is a novel that holds many stories. It is the story of two sisters who struggle to define themselves in relationship to each other, their family, and the cultures they’ve inherited and have grown up in. It’s the story of a family straddling two countries, languages, cultures, histories—of how they navigate what to hold on to, what to reach for, and what to let go. It is the story of two countries—America and Korea—with their separate and linked histories of violence, separatio ...more
Webster Library
This book was amazing. It really opens your eyes to another culture and how someone moving to the United States from another country can be treated differently. The love of family or being a member of a close group can make you stronger or pull you apart when you are in a difficult situation.

The main character Janie is trying to get her doctorate in math. She was born in Korea and was transplanted to Michigan with her mother father and sister. The books starts out with Janie's sister Hannah disa
An engrossing read, Forgotten Country addresses a wide range of complex topics while remaining a family drama first and foremost. Catherine Chung weaves in these larger historical events. It seems that each of the three generations undergo major upheaval and loss whether from Japanese invaders, political factions within Korea, an authoritarian regime or from the North Korea-South Korea conflict. Chung weaves the history of the country in with the history of their family so we slowly learn how th ...more
This is one of those stories that hangs onto you like the smell of smoke, creeping in and making itself at home whether or not you really want it to. It begins with Jeehyun and Haejin, sisters born in Korea whose family moved to the U.S. when they were young. Now both in college, their names Anglicized to Janie and Hannah, the sisters who were once so close have grown apart until they hardly know each other. One day, without a word, Hannah disappears. Through friends, Janie tracks down Hannah's ...more
Karen White

I received an ARC of this book as a participant in BOOK CLUB, a joint venture between Linus' Blanket and Devourer of Books.

Riverhead books describes Forgotten Country: “Weaving Korean folklore and history within a modern narrative of immigration and identity, Catherine Chung delivers a fierce exploration of the inevitability of loss and the conflict between loyalty and freedom. Forgotten Country marks the debut of a graceful, astonishing new voice in fiction, one with a quiet ferocity that will
Sara Kovach
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 ho
Thorn MotherIssues
Just a gorgeously written book with organic twists and turns, deep characters all over the place. Janie immigrated to the US from Korea as a child, and now she's working on her PhD and her parents return to Korea when her father is stricken with a health crisis, while her younger sister has run away and wants nothing to do with the family. Janie's grandmother had told her that each generation of her family loses a girl, and much of the book has to do with the governing stories people tell themse ...more
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NYC Cornellians B...: March Book 4 25 Mar 17, 2013 12:05PM  
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Catherine Chung lives in New York, where she is working on a new novel and a collection of essays. She can often be found eating ice cream, petting other people's dogs, or wandering around with her nose in a book.
More about Catherine Chung...
Sisters: An Anthology Asian Americans in Michigan: Voices from the Midwest (Great Lakes Books Series) Asian Americans in Michigan: Voices from the Midwest

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“My mother did not want to go to America: this much I knew. I knew it by the way she became distracted and impatient with my sister, by the way she stopped tucking us into bed at night. I knew it from watching her feet, which began to shuffle after my father announced the move, as though they threw down invisible roots that needed to be pulled out with each step.” 9 likes
“Each life contains as much meaning as all of history.” 8 likes
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