Forgotten Country by Catherine Chung
The narrator of Forgotten Country is a Korean-American graduate student whose father is dying. Janie/Jeehyun is prickly and at times unlikeable. One main conflict is between her and her sister, who cut herself off from the family several years before the action of the novel begins. Janie is unable to forgive Hannah for her selfishness in hurting her parents so deeply, and she nearly prevents her sister from visiting her father’s deathbed. It’s a story that asks how far we should go for our parents, what sacrifices, if any, would be too great. The losses that Janie’s parents and their families experienced
through war and immigration loom large not only for them, but for their children, who feel obligated to make up for these losses in some way. Janie’s entire career is her gift to her father, a way to allow him to live vicariously through her achievements, and she neglects her dissertation because of traveling to Korea to attend him in his
illness. The writing is evocative and quiet, full of descriptions of gardens and forests in Korea and America, communicating the family’s love and its pain.