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Long for This World: A Novel
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Long for This World: A Novel

3.58  ·  Rating Details  ·  180 Ratings  ·  52 Reviews
Pushcart Prize nominee Sonya Chung has displayed her stunning talent in her award-winning short fiction and essays. Now, she renders the compelling story of a troubled family straddling cultures, fleeing and searching, in her piercing and profoundly humane first novel.

In 1953, on a small island in Korea, a young boy stows away on the ferry that is carrying his older broth
ebook, 288 pages
Published March 2nd 2010 by Scribner (first published 2010)
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Mar 21, 2010 Wendy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 t
May 12, 2010 Judy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
On the surface this book is about a 65 year old doctor who left Korea as a young man to follow his dreams in the U.S. He returns to his roots, visiting his prosperous younger brother and his family in a small town in Korea.

It's also about family dynamics; how our parents influence who we become as adults passing on their strengths and weaknesses. And how the children in turn affect their parents. How effective are we at communicating? How does what we leave unsaid affect us?

The book also examin
Celeste Ng
The cover of Sonya Chung’s debut novel, Long for This World, shows a young woman gazing out over a wide ocean, raising a camera to her eye. Chung’s main character is a photographer, but that’s not the only reason this cover is so apt. The novel unfolds like a collection of intimate snapshots, telling a story of loss and unexpected renewal.

Read the rest of my review at Fiction Writers Review:
Connie Kronlokken
Delicate relationships color this story. Not always between husband and wife, but often between more distant family members, such as a man and his sister-in-law. Direct communication between people is rare, not to be expected. The American Koreans, on a visit to Korea, do, however, ripple the calm surface of the Korean relatives' lives. At first it is welcome, but a break does come. Everyone is changed.

This story of how inner and outer lives meet is exactly what I want in a novel. The deaths tha
Yoojin Hahn
Jan 15, 2014 Yoojin Hahn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sonya Chung's "Long For This World" is a wonderful book. It tells the story of the extended Han family: of what happens to Han Hyun-Kyu's family in the USA and family in Korea after he returns to his old home. The book is rather complex, telling the stories of many family members at once -- the story of Jane, a war photographer who had gone through many tragedies and decides to follow her father to Korea, of her depressed brother Henry, of her mother Lee Woo-in, of Han Jae-Kyu, Han Jung-joo, and ...more
Lynn Kanter
Oct 03, 2014 Lynn Kanter rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Long for this World is about a war photographer who is injured in Iraq and goes home to recover in New York. “Home” is an ambiguous concept for her, since she has spent the past decade traveling to all the world’s worst places, preserving images and losing people. When she learns that her father has abruptly left her mother and gone to visit his brother in Korea – the first time he has returned to his home country in decades – the daughter goes to find him, bringing her cameras, her childlike Ko ...more
The title of this book is telling. The usual phrase is "NOT long for this world". The omission of that one word helps to show that this book is not about death (though there are several deaths involved that do factor into the narrative) but more about the moments of life. At points in the novel - my interpretation of the title was that the characters longed for a certain place that they may have abandoned and their quest to return. Chung is an excellent writer of sentences and descriptions but t ...more
May 31, 2010 Jill rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Long For This World -- the freshman effort of debut writer Sonya Chung -- is mostly about survival. Time and again in this short and assured book, Ms. Chung focuses in on loss and renewal; what each of us do to survive, even when we don't know all the answers and sometimes when we don't know the questions.

The story starts in 1953 on a remote island in South Korea, where a young boy and his older brother and sister-in-law make their way to the mainland and a future. Now, decades later, the young
Jan 02, 2016 Susan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A successful American doctor returns to Korea, his birth home looking for the peace, predictability and stability for himself within a familial home, and finding you can never go back. The societal norms and structure and comfort he grew up, although flawed are called to him. He will now try to reconcile this with his own family in America and move forward.
It is very well written and I will look to enjoy more from this author.
Jennifer W
It was all right. Character driven story, so nothing much happens. My favorite character was Jane. Her past with her family, her boyfriend (view spoiler), her brother, her photography all made for an interesting character. All the other members of the family seemed flat and had bland stories. However, even Jane's story had to be sucked into novel ridiculousness. (view spoiler) ...more
Mar 25, 2010 Edan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Since both Sonya Chung and I write for The Millions, I was kind of scared to read this book--what if I didn't like it? How would I handle that? I didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings, and I didn't want to be dishonest either. Thankfully, I really enjoyed Sonya's novel, which read so smoothly, even as it shifted characters' perspectives, even as it went from third person to first. I love the way Chung pulled us back into the past before releasing us into a present story that felt both quiet and ...more
Kelly McCloskey-Romero
Beautiful and sad. The sentences were so amazing; many made me sigh or stop
reading in awe. Ultimately, there's a lot of
tragedy in this story, some prolonged and dull, some intense and short.

I love the main character, Ai-jin, a photojournalist with true strength. The female characters in this book were quite powerful. I also enjoyed this window into Korea and the blend of Korean-American and Korean culture. She uses the language a lot in the text, and I love that.

The ending line was wonderful. I
Jun 28, 2010 Jane rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Not an easy read, but completely worth staying with. The writing is gorgeous, from the first sentences; and the story, while complex and heartbreaking, is completely engrossing. I needed the character list the author included in the front of the book. The names confused me for a while. This difficulty isn't helped by the fact that we jump from place to place and family to family in the beginning chapters. These stories do merge, and the richness of so many family stories is another gift the book ...more
Nov 14, 2010 Judy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: listened-to
Han Hyun-Ku returns to visit his brother's family in Korea some 40 years after immigrating to America, leaving his alcoholic wife and depressed son behind but being followed by his photojournalist daughter. The lives of various characters tangle and intersect, sometimes in tragic ways, as they each try to find their place in the family and in the world.

This book has gotten very good reviews, but I just couldn't get into it. Maybe it would have been better in print so that I could keep the Korean
Apr 13, 2011 V. rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Don't hide behind your camera. There's something like a realism, antiquarian, set in stone, three generations represented in a literate voice that never questions itself. There's supposed to be a moral standing here: some sort of inflection, judgement, resolution. It's all abandoned though. We're meant to ignore the hunger for ideas and exegetical value and delve into sentimentalism (Oh my. They're not long for this world. Neither Am I. Nobody is! Oh my!) This might be comfortable to some but no ...more
Oct 31, 2015 Gina rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was written fairly well. The author attempted to interweave the story through many various characters and for the most part, she succeeded. It did get confusing and I think that it took away from the underlying story.
Apr 28, 2010 Allyson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wrote my review under the comment section by accident. rather than copy and paste, I will try to recreate my feeling for this read which was that it is a beautifully written flowing novel. I feared with the lengthy cast of characters at the beginning I would lose track of whom was whom, but she outlines the feel of each character so well that I was able to recognize the confusing names without a problem. My only criticism would be that these people had some dramatically awful things happen in ...more
Aug 07, 2015 Laura rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Though this is an undoubtedly sad and heart-wrenching novel, it begs the reader to acknowledge the sides of being human that aren't always easy, and see the beauty in the diversity of human life. I had to keep putting this novel down because I was getting too sad, but it was a profound and beautiful sadness that I was able to sit with for a few hours/days before returning and reading more. The characters are all-too-human and relatable and the author's experience shines through. Definitely worth ...more
James Boo
Mar 01, 2010 James Boo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Long for This World is as much a testament to the craft of fiction - voice, setting and structure - as it is an artifact of genuine feeling. As Chung unravels the intertwining lives of an extended and multi-generational family of immigrants, each coming to terms with old challenges as he discovers new ones, she deftly immerses readers in memories of an all-too-real world, rather than simply leading them through it by the nose. Reading this book is something like discovering what Murakami's stori ...more
Herlveron Sagulu
I picked up this book in August, and when I was reading the last part of it, I left it at a foodcourt (and of course I lost it--hopefully the person who took it reads). I've waited about a month for the new copy, and yes it was a painful wait! know the kind of story that makes you think, and shifts your perspective and soul a little to realize the beauties hidden behind this chaotic world? This story does that to me. It is such a beautiful prose...I learned a lot, not only about wri ...more
May 25, 2015 Samara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A richly crafted novel weaving generations across the world. I found myself drawn into this story and found it touching on so many levels.
Jul 03, 2011 Melissa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am finding that I love to read about the experience of immigrants, especially from Asia. I imagine that is because half of my life was in the Eastern US and now, as a West Coaster for a longer period of time, my focus has shifted a bit. Chung'a wiring is expressive and insightful. The characters are such a mix with so much information about their individual experiences, whether they were Korean-born and moved to America, or remained in Korea. The customs and manner described are so telling to ...more
Alice Shechter
Apr 21, 2010 Alice Shechter rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Can't say enough about this book; complex, so moving, the characters are real enough to meet on the street and stick with you long after the last page--you hope to get an email update on what happened next! It is an immersion in an unfamiliar culture with none of the sometimes daunting feeling that not exactly understanding the references, or the culural code, will be a chore; yet also without tedious explanations. The people in Ms. Chung's novel are people first: flawed, complete, knowable; and ...more
Mar 24, 2010 Abby rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Abby by: a friend of Sonya Chung's
Shelves: fiction
I was drawn into the world of the Korean Hans, sensing (how would I know for sure?) that the author is presenting an accurate fiction, a plausible rendering of the family and their milieu. I had less interest in Jane, the young American, who is selfish, egotistic, and seemingly oblivious to, or lacking in appreciation of, her privileged position in society. Does she redeem herself (in my eyes) by the end? Maybe ... As for the rest, it is a well-crafted story peopled by a variety of well-realized ...more
Mar 16, 2010 Lisa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was really lovely, a story of Korean and Korean-American families -- how they come together and pull apart -- and art and loss, all done with a true and light touch and no excess sentimentality. Chung has a great ear for language and an eye for nuance, and pulled me in steadily and surely -- by the end of the novel I was a bit surprised at how much I cared about every single character. There's a lot of heart in this book, and nothing overplayed.

My full review is here.
Joanne Nussbaum
was listening to this book on cd...stopped after disc two....just wasn't following all the characters and time was me, not the book
Jul 11, 2016 Odessa rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The novel did not hold my interest. It might be attributed to the scattered sets in part and the rest was because what appears to be the quintessential case of muti-culturalism gone awry. Somehow the author's attempt to celebrate that type of panoramic view and an approach to omnibus POV paradoxically killed her utmost strength--good writing and eyes to precision--and what it could have achieved potentially. Odds are these could all work if they were presented in short stories.
Jul 02, 2010 Fredsky rated it it was amazing
Many family members, many tragedies and triumphs, more than 2 or 3 countries, and different times make up this lovely book. A Korean family connects and then reconnects with its American members. Cultural choices are available to the younger generations, but not the older. Many types of love appear here, there, alive, and dead. Mostly the love of Sonya Chung directs this cast of characters in this wonderful book.
Aug 26, 2010 Kate rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Chung has a really different writing style. This book jumps around from person to person, almost as if the feelings and thoughts are more important than the person - or that the feelings/thoughts are the person and not just their voice. I felt like I really knew the characters, not their whole life story or every single thing they did, but knew them.

It was a little slow, but really good.
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Sonya Chung is the author of the novels THE LOVED ONES (Relegation Books, 2016) and LONG FOR THIS WORLD (Scribner, 2010). She is a staff writer for the The Millions and founding editor of Bloom, and is a recipient of a Pushcart Prize nomination, the Charles Johnson Fiction Award, the Bronx Council on the Arts Writers’ Fellowship & Residency, and a MacDowell Colony Fellowship. Sonya’s stories, ...more
More about Sonya Chung...

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“Childhood is like that, so full of treasures. I've tried to bring as many of those treasures with me, into adulthood, as possible. Otherwise, what is it to be grown? Is learning to die, one day at a time.” 2 likes
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