Catherine Chung’s widely acclaimed debut novel is about Janie’s search for her sister after she disappears. Janie’s family has lost a daughter in every generation, the aspect of the story emphasized in its haunting book trailer. The author weaves Korean history, including the war, into her family narrative.
Chung was named a Granta New Voice in 2010, and there is an interview with the author featured on the Granta website this month.
Adult/High School– Like Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club (Putnam, 1989) and Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake (Houghton, 2003), Chung’s graceful debut novel portrays immigrant family life in modern times. Tied to the traditions of Korea, Jamie’s parents expect the world of her, and more. Her younger sister, Hannah, feels many of the same pressures, but doesn’t have the coping mechanism to deal with them. When Hannah packs up and leaves one day, leaving no note, Jamie is expected to find her and bring her back. Chung weaves haunting stories from the family’s past, of sisters from each generation who go missing, and of survival during war, with promises for the future in Jamie’s schooling and the heartbreak of illness. Jamie’s desire to be everything her parents wish her to be while longing for a path of her own will resonate with teens as will Hannah’s departure. The Forgotten Country showcases a family whose members struggle to stay together while finding their individual identity. This lyrical tale filled with heartbreak and forgiveness illustrates the bonds that hold a family together.–Sara Campbell, Rowan Public Library, Salisbury, NC