BookBrowse has a new look! Learn more about the update here.

Excerpt from Forgotten Country by Catherine Chung, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Forgotten Country by Catherine Chung

Forgotten Country

by Catherine Chung
  • BookBrowse Review:
  • Critics' Consensus:
  • Readers' Rating:
  • First Published:
  • Mar 1, 2012
  • Paperback:
  • Mar 2013
  • Rate this book

  • Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

1.

The year that Hannah disappeared, the first frost came early, killing everything in the garden. It took the cantaloupe and the tomatoes; the leaves of lettuce turned brittle and snapped. Even the kale withered and died. In front, the wine-colored roses froze, powdered gray with the cold, like silk flowers in an attic covered with dust. My father and I had planted the garden over several weekends, and tended it carefully. Then it had overgrown itself, the tomatoes winding themselves up the wall of our house and stretching out to span the distance to the fence. After the frost we'd left it all winter without trimming anything back. Now we stood on the lawn, surveying the ruin, tracking damp patches of ground wherever we stepped.

"We're selling the house," my father said, blowing warm air on his hands.

"That makes sense," I said, but it felt suddenly difficult to breathe. My parents had told me they were going back to Korea, so I'd known selling our house was a possibility, but I hadn't expected it.

"We're going to have to clean this up," my father said, gesturing at the garden.

"It's cold," I said. "Let's go inside."

He nodded. The tendons in his neck were taut. His breath steamed slowly around his face. Everything was inside out, or at least the cold had turned the insides of things visible. The green tomatoes were now gray and translucent, their skins puckered at the stems, still hanging from their frozen vines. "We want you to find Hannah," he said.

"When are you leaving?" I asked.

"As soon as possible," my father said.

"I want to go with you."

My father shook his head. "Find your sister," he said. He had blamed me after the initial panic, when we discovered that Hannah hadn't been abducted or killed, but had simply left without telling us, without leaving us a way to contact her. I was her older sister, living in the same city. He thought I should have seen it coming.

When I moved back home for the summer, my father grilled me about her. He wanted to know everything about the months prior to her departure: what she had looked like, what she had said. What I had noticed: why I hadn't noticed more. He was already sick then, but didn't know it yet. I wonder if Hannah would have been able to pick up and leave like that if she had known. Inside, we made tea and sat at our kitchen table, waiting for my mother to come down. My father's hands relaxed on the table, his fingers eased into a slight curl around his mug. They looked fragile against the smooth blue ceramic, his veins raised thick and soft. For a moment I wanted to cover his hands with mine, even though they had always looked like that.

Growing up, Hannah and I worried we'd inherit those veins, huge and tinged blue. It was true that my father's body had pulled into itself in the last couple of years so that his bones protruded, but his eyes were still sharp and discerning, and his hands were the same hands that had built this table, the same hands that refused to let anything go.

"I want to go with you when you go to Korea," I said.

My father grimaced. "It's more important that you find Hannah. You need to bring her home."

"I can't do that."

"She's your only sister."

"She's a brat."

My mother's footsteps sounded down the stairs, and together we looked toward the hallway. My father tilted his head and called out, "We're in the kitchen!" He leaned forward and took my hand in his. It was warm. He whispered, "Don't upset her."

One word about Hannah was enough to make my mother dissolve into tears for at least an hour. "Dissolve" was not too strong a word. When my mother wept, the whole world vanished. My father and I ceased to exist, and even Hannah's shadowy figure was obscured. This could happen anywhere, at any time - even in public. At first I wondered how my mother could sustain such anxiety, how one body could hold it all. Then I realized it was a question of density.

Excerpted from Forgotten Country by Catherine Chung. Copyright © 2012 by Catherine Chung. Excerpted by permission of Riverhead Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book:
  The Kwangju Massacre

Become a Member

Join BookBrowse today to start
discovering exceptional books!
Find Out More

Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: Bury Your Gays
    Bury Your Gays
    by Chuck Tingle
    Chuck Tingle, for those who don't know, is the pseudonym of an eccentric writer best known for his ...
  • Book Jacket: Blue Ruin
    Blue Ruin
    by Hari Kunzru
    Like Red Pill and White Tears, the first two novels in Hari Kunzru's loosely connected Three-...
  • Book Jacket: A Gentleman and a Thief
    A Gentleman and a Thief
    by Dean Jobb
    In the Roaring Twenties—an era known for its flash and glamour as well as its gangsters and ...
  • Book Jacket: Early Sobrieties
    Early Sobrieties
    by Michael Deagler
    Dennis Monk is sober now, and he expects some applause. Or at least some recognition that he's ...

BookBrowse Book Club

Book Jacket
The 1619 Project
by Nikole Hannah-Jones
An impactful expansion of groundbreaking journalism, The 1619 Project offers a revealing vision of America's past and present.
Book Jacket
Lady Tan's Circle of Women
by Lisa See
Lisa See's latest historical novel, inspired by the true story of a woman physician from 15th-century China.

Members Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Very Long, Very Strange Life of Isaac Dahl
    by Bart Yates

    A saga spanning 12 significant days across nearly 100 years in the life of a single man.

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

L T C O of the B

and be entered to win..

Win This Book
Win Smothermoss

Smothermoss by Alisa Alering

A haunting, imaginative, and twisting tale of two sisters and the menacing, unexplained forces that threaten them and their rural mountain community.

Enter

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.