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3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (1,131 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Catherine Chung Narrator: Emily Woo Zeller Publisher: Blackstone Publishing Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: March 2012 ISBN: 9781482982442
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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 unspoken. Her father tells tales about numbers, and in his stories everything works out. In her mother’s, deer explode in fields, frogs bury their loved ones in the ocean, and girls jump from cliffs and fall like flowers into the sea. Within all these stories are warnings.

Years later, when Hannah inexplicably cuts all ties and disappears, Janie embarks on a mission to find her sister and finally uncover the truth beneath her family’s silence. To do so, she must confront their history, the reason for her parents’ sudden move to America twenty years earlier, and ultimately her conflicted feelings toward her sister and her own role in the betrayal behind their estrangement.

Weaving Korean folklore within a modern narrative of immigration and identity, Forgotten Country is a fierce exploration of the inevitability of loss, the conflict between obligation and freedom, and a family struggling to find its way out of silence and back to one another.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Gorgeous…A heartbreaking story about sisters, family, and keeping traditions alive.”


  • “Luminous and surprising…[Chung’s] voice is fresh, her material rich, and Forgotten Country is an impressive, memorable debut.”

    San Francisco Chronicle

  • “[A] lovely, elegiac novel…Both heartbreaking and redemptive.”

    Boston Globe

  • “Chung indelibly portrays a Korea viciously divided but ever bound to history, myth, and hope.”

    O, The Oprah Magazine

  • “The unflinchingly honest examination of grief, anger, familial obligation, and love gives the novel a compelling emotional core.”

    New Yorker

  • “It is a rare novel—debut or otherwise—that can sing at once with such tenderness and ferocity, with such intense feeling and exquisite restraint. Forgotten Country is just that book, poetically crafted, shimmering with hard-won emotion, and wholly absorbing. A superb performance.”

    Chang-rae Lee, author of The Surrednered

  • Forgotten Country is often wrenching, but Chung’s graceful writing—replete as it is with delicately rendered family affections, snippets of Korean folklore, and an unerring sense of storytelling—lifts the tragedies into the realm of lovely melancholia. The pain Janie feels with all of her discoveries isn’t enviable, but the peace that the hard-swallowed wisdom brings her is touching and true.”

    Minneapolis Star-Tribune

  • “A spare, haunting tale of loss, yearning, and discovery.”


  • “A heartbreaking debut novel that will leave you quietly shattered in its wake. Forgotten Country is an exquisitely rendered account of a Korean immigrant family divided by two sisters, two countries, and a curse that spans generations. Catherine Chung has written a haunting meditation on family loyalty and the lingering legacy of war.”

    Julie Otsuka, author of The Buddha in the Attic

  • “Beautiful…A masterful exploration of generational tensions within a Korean family on two continents…Chung is a remarkable writer, willing to dig fearlessly under her characters’ surface motivations. Her style is elegant but never clinical, and her judicious use of Korean folktales amplifies the themes of sacrifice, duty, and expectation.”


  • “Chung delves with aching honesty and beauty into large, difficult questions—the strength and limits of family, the definition of home, the boundaries (or lack thereof) between duty and love—within the context of a Korean experience. Chung’s limpid prose matches her emotional intelligence.”

    Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

  • “An inexpressibly beautiful story…Chung does a masterful job of weaving the past with the present, incorporating mythology and memory in ways that both captivate and haunt…If you read one novel this spring, let it be Forgotten Country. I cannot overstate the joy this book brings.”


  • “In this beautiful debut novel…Woven with tender reflections, sharp renderings of isolation, and beautiful prose…Chung simultaneously shines light on the violence of Korean history, the chill of American xenophobia, and the impossibility of home in either country.”

    Publishers Weekly (starred review)

  • “Moving among emotions, from reserved to exuberant, and from easy joy all the way to devastating pain and loss, Chung’s superb debut examines the twin hearts of cruelty and compassion between sisters in particular and family in general…This elegantly written, stunningly powerful, simply masterful first novel should earn Chung many fans, especially among those who enjoy Amy Tan, Eugenia Kim, Lisa See, and Chang-Rae Lee.”

    Booklist (starred review)

  • Selected for the March 2012 Indie Next List
  • A Kirkus Reviews “New and Notable Title”, March 2012
  • A 2012 Booklist Top 10 First Novel
  • A 2012 BookPage Best Book for Fiction
  • A 2012 San Francisco Chronicle Best Book for Fiction
  • A 2013 PEN/Ernest Hemingway Foundation Award Honourable Mention

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Pj | 2/19/2014

    " Interesting read about 2 sisters, their relationships with each other and their parents. Good details about life in Korea and the stories told that were from the old country , that were told to the children. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Sharon Brown | 2/14/2014

    " The writing was eloquent, but I thought there were too many pages that weren't needed to move the story forward. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Marney Cooley | 2/9/2014

    " Quiet ferocity marks this narrative involving sibling rivalry, Korean history and culture, family dysfunction etc. Another look at the cultural struggles of immigrants to America - and the generational clashes that can ensue. Well written, but for me, somehow not entirely engrossing. Perhaps I got frustrated with the "heroine". "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Linda Robinson | 2/8/2014

    " Resolution feels like a forgotten country in this debut novel. Story threads show up, wind loosely and then disappear, like the snowmen Hannah builds on the windowsill. The book jacket blurb offered a synopsis that has little connection to the story, although I would have liked to read that novel. The struggle between family fealty and freedom is a mighty undertaking to be hefted by two such underdeveloped sisters. Disjointed subplots, characters that behave in odd ways, and no one to heroically carry the story out of the snowdrift. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Carissa | 1/26/2014

    " The plot kind of veered from what I thought it would be initially, but I still really enjoyed this one. The writing is beautiful, the characters avoid predictability, and although there were loose ends, they seemed apt in the context of the story. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Ariel Price | 1/23/2014

    " I thought this was a beautiful novel about the love of a family. Heartbreaking at times, and very real. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 O.C. | 1/9/2014

    " Now I want to hug everyone and move home. <3 "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Megan | 1/8/2014

    " 2nd book I've read this month that was not really about what I thought it was about...and made many Chicago references. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Pablo | 12/21/2013

    " I love that feeling, when someone has put their heart and soul into something and you can tell because it's running through you. This book is about many things, family and secrets and loss and hope, but it shows that they can have one feeling. It left me wondering, and happy. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Cristine | 11/26/2013

    " This novel captured my interest with it's cultural history stories...couldn't put it down. It was one of those books that caught your attention and I ended up reading all of it in 2 days. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Lauren | 8/3/2013

    " Great first novel about a Korean family living in Michigan with two adult daughters, one dutiful, the other rebellious. When a crisis sends the parents back to Korea, the daughters need to resolve their differences. Beautifully written and emotionally very real. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Aimee | 4/26/2013

    " Not what I was hoping for but well written. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Michele Cassatta | 4/22/2013

    " Good, good, good!!! I could not put it down. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Laura Kump | 12/1/2012

    " I had such high hopes for this one. Visions of Amy Tan's storytelling came to mind. Starts out good but I felt it just dragged along. The storytelling sequences can't hold a candle to Tan. Likeable book but I wanted more. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Megan O'Neill | 11/17/2012

    " Poignant and lyrical, Catherine Chung delivers a sucker-punch to the heart with Forgotten Country, though it is not without its moments of lightheartedness and familial tenderness. "

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About the Author
Author Catherine Chung

Catherine Chung was born in Evanston, Illinois, during one of the worst blizzards on record, and grew up in New York, New Jersey, and Michigan. She was named one of Granta’s New Voices and is the recipient of a Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Prize. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

About the Narrator

Emily Woo Zeller is an Earphones Award–winning audiobook narrator, voice-over artist, actor, dancer, and choreographer. She began her voice-over work dubbing for film and television in Southeast Asia, where she resided, although her training as a performing artist began in her native Los Angeles, California. AudioFile magazine named her one of the Best Voices of 2013 for her work in Gulp. Other awards include the 2009 Tristen Award for Best Actress as Sally Bowles in Cabaret and the 2006 Roselyn E. Schneider Prize for Creative Achievement.