Forgotten Country
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Forgotten Country

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3.48 of 5 stars 3.48  ·  rating details  ·  1,490 ratings  ·  333 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...more
Hardcover, 296 pages
Published March 1st 2012 by Riverhead Hardcover
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Seth
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.
Debbie
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...more
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.
Allison
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,...more
Catherine
May 25, 2012 Catherine rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  (Review from the author)
I wrote this--I hope you like it!
Caroline
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...more
Sarah
Oh my GOD. So good. Bleak but beautiful. Wow.
Raquel
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mara
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...more
Emily
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
Ciara
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...more
christa
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...more
Kerry
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...more
Candice
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
Lisa
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.
Marcy
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...more
Alvin
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...more
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...more
Gaby
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
Waven
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...more
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...more
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
Heather
I didn't love this book, but it was interesting to read about a Korean family emigrating to America and eventually returning to Korea. There are some historical and cultural insights, but mostly just the life of a family--their traditions, trials, dreams, sicknesses, love and forgiveness. Family and bringing honor to the family is important in Korean culture and we see honor, betrayal, selfishness, forgiveness and love in this story.

Here are a couple of interesting insights/conversations I like...more
Gail
This is a touching family story of separation (both from country and family) and of connection. Janie is the Korean/American daughter who always tries to do the right thing and who tortures herself for mistakes made. Her younger sister Hannah leaves the family without notice. The family is reunited and back in their homeland of Korea to await the father's death. We are gently led back in time to know the family's history in Korea and of their move to Michigan.
I enjoyed this book and getting to...more
Lisa
Won this in a Goodreads Giveaway. Fun to get an advance copy.

Now finished reading it...
I liked it. I didn't love it. I think my expectations were a bit different than what it ended up being, but it was a good book overall. The description of the plot on the back of the book and on Goodreads puts emphasis on the story line between the daughters and about the sister's disappearance. It turns out, the book really had fairly little to do with that part of the plot and everything to do with the daug...more
Pam
I wish I could do book reviews because this book is so wonderful I would like to be able to share it with you. Janie is a Korean who moved to USA as a child because her father had written a political pamphlet in Korea. At the point of the novel, Janie's father is dying a slow death from cancer and her sister has been missing for a year. The emotions Janie felt during her father's illness are truthful and we go on the voyage with her. Her sister's disappearance is solved but sisterly jealousies r...more
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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

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“Each life contains as much meaning as all of history.” 8 likes
“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.” 6 likes
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