cover image Forgotten Country

Forgotten Country

Catherine Chung. Riverhead, $26.95 (352p) ISBN 978-1-59448-808-5

In this beautiful debut novel, sisters Janie and Hannah demonstrate very different reactions to their Korean parents and heritage. The dutiful Janie has carried the weight of having to look after the more manipulative but possibly more lovable Hannah since childhood. Woven with tender reflections, sharp renderings of isolation, and beautiful prose, the story traces Janie’s and Hannah’s Midwestern upbringing. Tensions rise when Hannah intentionally disappears while away at college. Janie, haunted by her grandmother’s warning that in their family, a sister from each generation always vanishes, tries to find her, though Hannah makes it clear she doesn’t want to be found. Chung simultaneously shines light on the violence of Korean history, the chill of American xenophobia, and the impossibility of home in either country. “In Korea, couples dress alike to show the world that they’re together. Families, sisters, teams, groups—delight in wearing a uniform.... Here is the lesson: nothing is more important than belonging.” Though both sisters know this to be true, they struggle with how to make peace with one another and their past until an unanticipated trip to Korea allows everyone to see more clearly. Agent: Maria Massie, Lippincott Massie McQuilkin. (Mar.)