Tuesday, March 13, 2012

2012 BOTY : Forgotten Country by Catherine Chung

Janie's family moved to the United States from Korea when she was very small. She remembers some about it, but much of her family's history and life in Korea remains a mystery. She remembers vague stories her grandmother told of how every generation has lost a sister. Janie is baffled by the disappearance of her Auntie and the family's decision to consider her dead. She wants to know more.

She is working to complete her thesis in mathematics in order to make her father proud. She is a dutiful daughter working for the approval of her parents. She is amazed at how her father's love of numbers shaped her own path. She values his brilliant mind and credits him with how far she has come. Life seems to be moving in a right direction.

But life is turned upside down when Janie's sister Hannah, disappears without a trace. Janie's parents are desperate to find her, but it quickly becomes apparent through an empty apartment (with a note in Hannah's handwriting stating that all of the remaining items are free), that Hannah has left them with no intention of returning.

After months of her parents trying to find her and her mother's steady increase in hysteria, Janie learns the secret her parents have been hiding: her father is dying of cancer. It has metastasized and he is terminal. The doctor has recommended that he move back to Korea where they have a revolutionary treatment that may extend his life by a few months. Janie's mother speaks of family duty and pleads with Janie that it is up to her to retrieve her lost sister so that the family can be together in Korea for her father's final days.

Janie begins a journey of balance. She wants to learn the secrets of her family's past. She wants to be a happy family and help to make her father feel joy and peace in the end of his life. However, she also harbors a bitterness from Hannah's abandonment. She wants to punish her sister for leaving the family and is loathe to take on the obligation of returning her wayward sister.

I received Forgotten Country by Catherine Chung as a giveaway from Goodreads. I love that website! I started the book with wavering optimism, so far the books I've received from the giveaways have all been quite good. I didn't want to be let down.

The story is good, but lacked the intensity I needed to suck me in. Though I wanted to continue reading the book, I found that I would put it off for no apparent reason. The draw wasn't there. That being said, there is some fantastic writing and Chung manages to create a vivid picture through her description.

My biggest issue was with what appeared to be several sudden shifts in plot. These transitions sometimes seemed a bit rough and confusing, as if there was question for the reason a certain chapter or story was included. In the end, the majority of these little pieces did come together, but I ended the book with a feeling of emptiness and uncertainty. Though I enjoyed the pathway that I had traveled to reach the ending, I didn't feel that the journey was complete. I was left wanting more...wanting resolution.

I debated for a while as to how to rate this book. My system became slightly fuzzy. I knew it wouldn't receive the low one star rating or the high five star rating, but I needed to figure out where it fell in between.  I don't know that I would necessarily read it again...pushing it towards the 2 rating...but I did like the writing style over all. Had the ending been more appropriately powerful, I think it would've made the book much more enjoyable. So in the end, Forgotten Country by Catherine Chung receives 3 out of 5 stars.

Like to read? Need some ideas and maybe a little motivation? Come join me on Goodreads and take part in the 2012 Reading Challenge. So far I've read 11 books towards my goal of 64 for the year and I've found a lot of great books from seeing what my friends recommend. Plus...there's always the chance to win a new book of your own!


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