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The Apology

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Member Reviews

Hak Jeonga is 105 years old and receives a letter from a relative that references something she was trying to keep hidden. This starts her quest to travel to America to meet them in order to prevent something terrible from happening. However, her older sisters are determined to come along despite Jeonga's protests since she doesn't want them to know. Everything Jeonga has done in her life was to keep the family's reputation in good standing, but now she's wondering if she had made the right decision as it's all coming to light. The first part of the book is told while Jeonga is alive and traveling to America, while the second part takes place in Jeonga's afterlife where she meets people from her past who help her gain perspective and closure. Overall, an interesting family saga that focuses on the lengths a person will go to save face when it comes to their family's reputation.

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A compelling story with beautiful writing. The main character was interesting, witty, leading to an immersive, overall, enjoyable story!

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The Apology surprised me by starting in the middle and traveling both backward and forward in time. A Korean woman, visiting family in America is killed by a bus. We then learn her life's story and all that informs her responses to those around her. Her attempts at arranging things in her and her family's lives have caused consequences that, now she is dead, she must deal with. She travels through the underworld in order to understand why these consequences have happened and how she might be able to modify them.. A fascinating journey through the karma of the old woman that leads to an understanding of her choices.

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Woo, what a ride! I am a sucker for multi-generational stories, especially ones that have magical realism elements and has a quirky protagonist. I truly enjoyed the themes of this book (self atonement and familial sacrifice) because they're themes I think about a lot in my personal life and in my writing. In some ways, I related a lot to Jeonga. I loved the book and would highly recommend it.

Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC!

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THE APOLOGY by Jimin Han follows Hak Jeonga, a 105-year-old woman in Korea who’s kept a huge family secret under wraps for decades. Despite splintered relationships with loved ones, she’s committed to her silence…until a letter from the United States makes her stance untenable. As she flies to the U.S. to prevent her great-granddaughter from making a terrible decision, she’s still unwilling to reveal the secret, with fatal consequences to herself.

The book is told from Jeonga’s perspective in the afterlife as she reflects on both the distant past and the ten fateful days between receiving the letter and her death, then follows her as she tries to influence the choices of the living from the realm of the dead. She squabbles with her sisters, grieves old regrets, and anxiously endeavors to steer her progeny while disguising her true motivations in an emotion-laden but humorous narration.

While I had many questions about how this afterlife realm operates, what makes the book memorable is the themes of apology, forgiveness, and reconciliation – even from beyond the grave. Also, this novel is a compelling illustration of how a person becomes captive to the need to save face, protecting the outward appearance despite great internal harm. Lastly, Jeonga’s character was perfectly executed: prideful, prickly, stubborn, and fierce.

THE APOLOGY reminds me of a cross between Carolyn Huynh’s THE FORTUNES OF JADED WOMEN (for the zany bickering among the elderly sisters) with Shehan Karunatilaka’s THE SEVEN MOONS OF MAALI ALMEIDA (for its bardo-bound narrator) and a sprinkling of Joseph Han’s NUCLEAR FAMILY (for Korean ghosts of the past). With straightforward prose and a memorable centenarian narrator, this is a moving portrayal of the costs of our secrets.

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⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

The Apology is a sweeping intergenerational family saga that reads like a Korean melodrama. Jeonga is the tale’s feisty 105-year-old narrator and keeper of family secrets. Jeonga treks from Korea to the United States after she mistakenly receives a letter, meant for her sister Mina, asking for help. It quickly becomes apparent to Jeonga that if she doesn’t act soon her family may be cursed forever. But then the unexpected happens and our centenarian must learn how to save her family from the other side of the veil. On her path to seeking redemption, Jeonga reveals the actions that set into motion a sequence of events that could lead to consequences she never could have imagined.

The Apology will have you in turns sighing and groaning; laughing and crying. If you’d love a tale about second chances or a fable that transcends astral planes, I highly recommend reading The Apology.

Q: What’s an infamous story in your family? I’ll tell if you tell 😉

Many thanks to the author @JiminHanWriter, @LittleBrown and NetGalley for the gift of this digital ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Available today! 01 Aug 2023

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This book is absolutely steeped in Korean culture and familial expectations.

Cha Jeonga is a 105 year old woman with many regrets in life. She has seen the death of her husband and son, as well as lost other family in the process. When she finds out her long lost sister’s great-grandson is ill, she travels to the United States to make amends and heal the family.

I thought the family dynamic was so interesting in this book, especially between the sisters. There is so much competition and secrets and it creates a huge rift between everyone involved. Jeonga herself is pretty funny, I thought her character was extremely well fleshed out.

Because this is a story that starts with a death, I thought a lot of it would take place in the afterlife but it didn’t. It did kind of feel like 2 books in one because of this and it got a little disjointed. There was a lot of rushing in the end to wrap everything up.

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3.5 stars. Thank you to Net Galley and Little, Brown and Company for the ARC in exchange for my honest review. Jeonga is a 105 year old great grandmother in South Korea and has many regrets. She's made difficult decisions to save her family from shame and heartache but she's haunted by her past decisions in the present and decides to take action to further cover-up things. This requires her to go to the US, a trip that should have happened years ago to mend family issues, but she gets the added bonus of her two older sisters joining her, not something she wanted. Things don't work out for Jeonga the way she planned and the last third of the book takes an interesting turn. It seemed a bit disjointed and didn't really work for me. But I appreciated the ideas of family and sisterhood in the framework of the outcomes of Korean War and Japanese colonialism in Korea and a main character who has lived it all.

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Delighted to include this title in the August edition of Novel Encounters, my column highlighting the month’s most anticipated fiction for the Books section of Zoomer, Canada’s national culture magazine. (see column and mini-review at link)

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The Apology also considers unresolved business in the afterlife. Jeonga, the 105-year-old protagonist, is killed by a bus on a visit to family in Chicago, and has to encounter already-deceased loved ones and set things right with the still-living from beyond, letting go of the family secrets she long worked to conceal. Chief among them is that her son had an illegitimate daughter; her trip from Korea to America was to prevent her secret great-granddaughter from marrying her long-lost sister’s great-grandson. Jeonga’s relationships with her sisters, their descendants, and her household employee Chohui are multilayered, complicated not only by standard societal divisions but also by the North-South Korea border. Han’s vision of the afterlife is odd and generatively confusing, providing a chance for Jeonga, a sometimes irritating character, to reconcile with her choices. This is an original and surprising family saga told in a carefully-cultivated narrative voice.

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Han's "The Apology" is a tale of a tangled family, secrets, and looking back on life. I enjoyed seeing things from the perspective of Jeonga. The idea of her looking back on her life from the afterlife and trying to atone for her mistakes is interesting. The family drama drew me in, and I was curious how things would play out.

I like the sisterly dynamic that Han portrays in this novel. The fact that the characters are elderly is not one that I'm used to since most authors seem to portray younger protagonists. Their squabbling with each other and the little digs they would make about their actions, life choices, etc. was sometimes funny, sometimes sad. I think Han does an excellent job of portraying a realistic family. Each of the sisters are well-rounded and all of them are stubborn.

I think the pacing is a bit slow for my taste, but it might not bother others, as this is very much a character-driven story. The plot still has its moments of surprise and is well constructed. I think that most readers will enjoy the journey, even if it takes time to get there. The ending is satisfying and I would definitely recommend this book.

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A 105-year-old Korean woman who has kept family secrets for decades tries to stop a marriage from happening. This is a family saga spanning many generations mixed with a ghost story. I especially enjoyed the early parts of the book that took place in Korea.

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As someone who is korean, who grew up in a korean household this book hit HOME. Han Jimin really made this so nostalgic.
This book was so fun, and the MC was amazing. Made me really miss my family, and made me so incredibly proud to be korean.

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There’s something about people—and characters—who insist that their way is the best way that absolutely put my back up. They’re usually traditional. They see things in black and white. They will roll right over you if you get in their way. The main character of Jimin Han’s discomforting novel, The Apology, is the epitome of this kind of character. Even though I would consider someone like Jeonga a person to be avoided for the sake of my mental health, I was able to be drawn into the story because Han shows us the fear that drives Jeonga every day of her life.

Jeogna is a very old woman when we meet her at the beginning of The Apology. We also meet her on the day that everything she desperately wanted to keep secret comes out into the open. And, unfortunately, for Jeogna, it’s also the day she dies in an accident. From this surprising opening, Han whisks us back, to show us how Jeogna came to be on an American street in front of a bus. A little over a week prior, Jeonga was in South Korea, in her apartment. She is scooped out of her home by her two older sisters (all of them are over 100 years old) to attend their father’s grave on the anniversary of his death. It’s a tradition Jeonga loathes but skipping out on the commemoration and the obligatory lunch afterwards is just not the done thing. The catalyst for everything that happens to Jeonga in the remaining days of her life arrives in the form of a letter from Jeonga’s great-grand-niece, Joyce, asking for help to pay for Joyce’s son’s medical bills. The three sisters immediately offer to arrange for money to be sent but there is something else in the letter that sets Jeonga’s heart racing. There is a name in the letter, one she thought she was the only one in the family who knew. And that name turns out to be engaged to the possibly-dying scion of the family.

It will take almost the rest of the book—plus a trip to the afterlife—for us to learn why that name makes Jeonga feel like she’s about to faint or have a heart attack and why she is so insistent on going to America herself to deliver the family funds. Jeonga’s journey to Ohio (with her older sisters and assistant in tow, much to Jeonga’s annoyance) is punctuated with scenes that take us even further back in time, to her childhood and middle age. All of these chapters richly portray a family that cannot escape its past, a past that Jeonga is fiercely keeping secret from everyone. Unless she learns to give up her secrets and atone to the living, Jeonga might be stuck as a ghost for the rest of her existence, with her family and loved ones out of reach forever.

The Apology was a fascinating psychological study. Han has a gift for placing readers into the shoes of a character who would, if we met them in real life, drive us completely bonkers with their persnickety insistence on keeping tradition and on maintaining an impenetrable respectability. Because we’re riding along in Jeonga’s head, it’s so much easier to sympathize with her once we see just how afraid she is all the time of being caught in her mistakes. Readers who like family drama will enjoy this one.

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At the beginning of this novel, an elderly woman gets hit by a bus fleeing an uncomfortable confrontation which causes her to rethink her life and decisions.

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This was such a sweet roller coaster of emotions! The perfect book club book due to it's ability to hook you and appeal to a wide variety of characters. Each chapter was a lovely dive into the motivation and backstory of characters. This read will continue to stick with me long after I finished it.

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In this offering, a recently deceased 105 year old woman, Jeonga, grapples with past decisions and unfortunate mistakes (some with the best intentions) that resurface under uncanny circumstances to affect the lives of her loved ones. Her life is a cautionary tale that “truth will set one free” – even though she endures a lot before realizing it. Fans of familial drama will cling to the pages as Jeonga, her parents, her sisters, and their descendants (each with district personalities and challenges) navigate their lives through multiple generations.

Their sagas delight are laced with introspective threads that create drama (when it really doesn’t have to be), but I went along with it for the sake of the story. Their interpersonal squabbles are entertaining enough (in a soap opera-ish kind of way). Pacing is swift enough and I think the ending is palpable. I think most audiences will be satisfied with the light sprinklings of redemption, life lessons, and concepts of self-examination and emotional growth. I enjoyed the cultural references and observations – again, nothing too heavy-handed and delivered with amusing/comical touches.

Overall, an entertaining and delightful offering for those who can suspend belief and just enjoy the story for what it is.

Thank you NetGalley and Little, Brown and Company for the opportunity to review.

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[arc review]
Thank you to NetGalley and Little, Brown and Company for providing an arc in exchange for an honest review.
The Apology releases August 1, 2023

This was such a difficult book for me to get through; I’m unsure if it boils down to the writing of it it’s just not the right timing for me.

Aside from the opening chapter where the main character got hit by a bus and died, I found it to be very one-note, and there really wasn’t much to pull me in, excite me, or motivate me to want to pick it up.

If you’re looking for a Korean family saga story told from the perspective of a centenarian who has a secret, with a slight magical/supernatural element from the afterlife, I would consider checking out this title.


cw: incest plotline

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It felt like two different people wrote this book, and not in a meta- character growth kind of way. The MC is a hoot and we love that but the ending felt so disjointed from the rest. Good read but not outstanding.

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The Apology

This multicultural family epic originating from Korea spans many years and half of the globe. A 105-year-old woman, a South Korean matriarch, gets a mysterious letter, and days later bursts into the afterlife following being hit by a bus.
She starts a quest to end a family curse that she started years ago when she sent a pregnant girl to the U.S. to avert a scandal. Ever fearful of something that would cause disgrace and poverty to her cherished family, she does her spirited-in more ways than one-best to remedy the situation.
From the days of Japanese colonialism, through the Korean War, to the U.S. of the current day, this story told through the voice of the unforgettable, indomitable 105-year-old protagonist has many touching and humorous moments.
This could be adapted into an outstanding feature film.

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