Cover Image: The Apology

The Apology

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Member Reviews

Thank you to Netgalley for the ARC!

I had a bit of a hard time getting into this, but when it transitioned to our main character traversing the afterlife, it really picked up for me. I do find the concept interesting, especially the familiar story of family not speaking with each other. The imagery was well done, descriptive and grounded. I did have a hard time with some of the filler content, but once it picked up it was good.

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Generally speaking, I usually enjoy reading many layered generational stories. Although an interesting and entertaining story, this one missed the mark. It was confusing at times. Not an awful read, not a great read.

What is the afterlife composed of? Does it simply fall down to this? "Still, better to embrace love, knowing you’ll experience both sadness and happiness , than shut yourself away from the possibility of love at all,” she replied."


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Learning about Korean culture in this format was eye-opening and truly thought provoking. The moments of surrealism made a lot of this story even more enjoyable.

Thank you to NetGalley for the ARC. All opinions expressed are my own.

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2.5 stars

This was a difficult read. Ultimately I felt I missed the point of the book and just was not able to overcome the cultural and age barriers.

There were a lot of characters to keep track of, none particularly likeable and the story took place over different time periods and in different countries. The main character and her sisters were privileged and entitled and I couldn't make myself care what happened to them.

The protagonist interferes in her family's life to avoid scandal and sets in motion a chain of events that becomes uncontrollable. Part of the story happens after her death when she is attempting to influence events from the afterlife.

If this sounds confusing, I certainly found it so. I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.

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The Apology follows 105-year-old Jeonga, her two sisters, and her aide Chohui on a trip to the US. Jeonga has a plan that none of the aforementioned are privvy to.

I struggled in the beginning with the slow pace and then could not put it down at the last 10%, had to find out what happened.

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Goodness, Gracious. I really enjoyed the narratives encapsulated in this sweet tale of family, curses, and generational trauma that has followed a family overseas, state lines, and decades of time. I am so thankful to Jimin Han, Little Brown and Company, and Netgalley for sending me some lovely bookish accessories and a finished copy of the book before its publication date of August 1, 2023.

Part Ghost Story and part family drama, The Apology reminded me a lot of A24's The Farewell which follows a similar narrative of how family members. process trauma and life events while also managing to have each other's backs and survive.

Our Main Character, Jeonga Cha has been holding up the family name for 105 years and passes quite brutally one day, but all the while, we readers get an inside glance into the years leading up to her demise, in an almost lens of remorse for the ways in which she pushed loved ones away. This tale has a paranormal aspect, but the tears that I shed were not those of fear, but of bittersweetness for the way this story played out.

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I received an ARC of this novel from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

A novel about a Korean family and the secrets they harbored.

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The Apology by Jimin Han is a really lovely book that is equal parts wistful, heartfelt, and endearingly comic. When we meet the narrator, 105-year-old Jeonga Cha, in the first few pages of the novel, she's unfortunately about to be hit by a bus while rushing off in a panic to prevent her sister's great-grandson from marrying her own great-granddaughter, a person whose existence the rest of her family is unaware of. Over the course of the story, Jeonga explains more about her family history and the events that led to this situation, and even in death she attempts to right the wrongs and guide her descendants to happiness.

Jeonga is such a memorable narrator. She's a woman whose strong dense of duty and propriety has perhaps led her to make some decisions that she has come to regret now that she's looking back on them with the benefit of hindsight and the perspective of the long decades that have passed. Jimin Han very deftly pulls off the trick of allowing the reader to perceive the nuances in interactions that her narrator fails to see. As a result, Jeonga comes across as very authentic and very human in all her fallibility.

One thing that this book made me look into was the significance of persimmons, which come up a lot in the story. I didn't know before that persimmons are a Buddhist symbol of transformation, because they go from being a very bitter, green plant when immature to a sweet and nourishing fruit when ripe. The story here is certainly one of transformation, and it's a very poignant one as we see Jeonga reevaluate the things that were so important to her throughout pivotal moments in her life and realize that in trying to do what she thought was best, she made decisions that would ultimately lead to the biggest regrets of her life.

The ending feels perhaps a touch rushed. I was surprised to see 89% in the corner of my ereader when I thought there was still a lot more that could be explored. But it's a really heartwarming story that will definitely stay with me, and I think it would make an incredible movie.

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Thank you Netgalley for an early copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

This book was not for me. It started off promising. I was laughing and enjoying the inner thoughts of the main character. But after about 30% of the book, I was really dragging to get there. There were so many characters and lots of storylines, I felt like. I didn't feel a connection with any of the characters and when I don't have someone to root for, It is hard to finish the book. I did think the writing was good but overall, I didn't enjoy this one.

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3.5 stars

The main character is 105 year Korean Jeonga Cha, and she is feisty. Her story begins with a shocking surprise in the first chapter with her death. We then travel back to view the moments in her life that lead up to the situation she has traveled to America to reconcile.

Some parts of the book are a bit boring to read through, but for the most part is intriguing to read. I love the theme of the book and how we sacrifice things for those we love, sometimes in turn hurting others. I wish the author had gone more deeply into how the culture of Jeonga's family played into the decisions she made, and <spoiler>the reason behind Seona's leaving. Also more into the relationship between Seona and her husband.</spoiler>

If you enjoyed A MAN CALLED OTTO by Fredrik Backman, you will enjoy this book. I look forward to reading more novels by the author, Jimin Han. She proves to have great talent in writing realistic fiction.

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This is an intriguing story about centenarians and long held secrets. The tale of Korean sisters spans almost a hundred years, from pre-Korean conflict to modern times. The Jeonga has always tried to do the correct thing for the family, avoiding conflict and scandal. This has led to keeping secrets, the kind 23 and Me can uncover. When those secrets are about to create a family crisis she travels to the US, along with her two older sisters, to resolve things. Unfortunately, she is hit by a bus so she has to work to help her family from the afterlife. For me, the first quarter was slow going but by the time I was a third of the way into the book I was fully engaged and excited.
Thanks to NetGalley for providing an advanced reader copy for review.

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This was a read, unlike others I have read this year. I came for magical realism, but it is very mild. I recommend this to people who enjoy generational stories and grumpy advanced-age characters. Some cultural items in the book were new to me, and I appreciated the glimpse into the brain of a cranky centenarian. It was a quick and enjoyable read. I would recommend to people looking for a quick one for a flight or other travel read.

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105 year-old Jeonga Cha has lived what appears to be an upright, banal life in South Korea. She has her fellow centenarian sisters Aera and Mina as her family, and despite the passing of her husband and her son, still has relatives both near and far in her life. However, when Mina shares with her a letter she's received, asking her to translate the English, Jeonga's carefully constructed life begins to crumble as the secrets she attempted to bury for decades begin to come out.

The story is structured from Jeonga's first person perspective, beginning with her narration from the afterlife as she details what happens over the 10 days following the discovery of the letter. The siblings travel to America as they re-meet relatives and descendents, and Jeonga does her best to cover up her own intentions and actions. There are skips to the past, as we learn the truth behind Jeonga's history, and the reason she so fiercely opposes the marriage between her her great grandniece and her betrothed, who is sick. All of these moments culminate in the present and Mina's eventual passing, when she must come to terms with her actions and atone for them.

While I enjoyed the premise of the novel and the perspective it gave on historical events in South Korea, I really struggled with most of it. The prose is rigid and tense, feeling more like a professional document than a novel, and gives little depth to Jeonga's character and emotions, and the interactions with her sisters were kept to just petty squabbles and bickerings. The pacing is slow and difficult to parse through at times as well; even as someone who prefers character-driven novels over plot-driven ones, the choppiness and jumps across time periods was uneven and the Jeonga post-death seemed completely different than the earlier narrator entirely.

While I appreciate the underlying focus of this novel - the faulty weight society places on appearances and reputation, the different forms and meanings of forgiveness, and if some things can truly be atoned for - the actual execution of this in "The Apology" made for a difficult read.

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A dazzling and spellbinding read! Han does a great job of writing realistic, flawed but relatable, characters. I was compelled to continue reading and moved by Jeonga’s transformation. The authors description of the the afterlife we different for me but so vivid and captivating. I absolutely loved this book and found it to be like a secret little gift. I’m so glad to have read an advanced copy thanks to NetGalley and can’t wait to recommend this book to everyone.

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Thank you so much to NetGalley and for Little Brown for giving me the opportunity to read this book early!

I love a sweeping family saga, but add in magical realism and a curse-preventing adventure in the afterlife and I’m sold. I loved the blend of the different elements in this story, both fantastical and so realistic in their emotional impact.

As someone who has learned about Korean history, I enjoyed being able to read more about it from a more personal point of view here. I also know that not many Americans (or westerners in general) learn about this history and I know this will be one of those books that opens people’s eyes.

Jeonga is a fantastic central character who I loved to follow throughout this tale. She is as complex as any human and when you start the novel you may not understand or agree with her, but as you read on you realize that she only does what she thinks is right at the time. And that is so completely human.

For fans of the acclaimed novel Pachinko and the booker prize winning The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida, this one is for you.

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I absolutely adored this one. A family drama with heart and unexpected humor, stretched across generations and oceans. How far will one family secret stretch the course of history? I adored this group of elderly sisters, and particularly the main character, setting off on a journey to America to try to help their family (and the main character setting off later in the book on a much longer journey to the afterlife). I adored the side characters and rooted for them all. This is not a seat-of-your-pants, fast-paced book, but I still had trouble putting it down. I loved spending time with this family.

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The Apology follows the journey of 105-year-old South Korean Hak Jeonga and her sisters to the United States and beyond. The Hak sisters are extraordinarily long-lived as her two older sisters, Mina and Aera, who accompany her on the trip are 110 and 108 respectively. In the first few pages, Madam Hak divulges that her regret involves hiding her son's 'indiscretion' and I groaned inwardly. The plot contained more makjang than I was expecting so it skewed closer to hackneyed kdrama trope plot than the 'sweeping intergenerational saga' advertised. There are five generations featured, including the sisters' parents.

The depiction of the sprightly centenarian bickering sisters is amusing, comparison of their children's accomplishments and their unique tackling of trip travails. They are missing a sister Seona who they haven't seen or heard from since she eloped to North Korea more than eighty years ago. Madam Hak's other regret and apology involves Seona's son, Daeshim. Her actions back then were motivated by protecting the family's reputation at all costs, believing that's what her father would have wanted.

The Apology is heavily plot-based although the character of Hak Jeonga is quite memorable. Her trusty aide/assistant Chohui would characterize her as difficult to work for. The classicism that she and her sisters exhibit can be shocking. I am ambivalent about the afterlife depiction, which does a strong tie-in to the persimmon on the jacket cover.

All in all, I did enjoy reading this and raced through most of it in one go. However after closing the book, I didn't give further thought to the plight of the characters or their dilemmas. The main concern of Madam Hak and what she is racing to prevent, <spoiler>consanguinity </spoiler>, is actually not that strong a problem. I was expecting a gravitas that wasn't present but once I let go of that expectation, the story was entertaining. 3.4 ⭐️

Thanks to Little, Brown and Co. as well as Netgalley for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review. The publication date of The Apology is 1st August 2023.

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I tried to like this one, but it never really pulled me in. I didn't connect with any of the characters, finding them uninteresting at best, annoying at worst, and I ultimately felt that the decision to have this somewhere between a contemporary and a supernatural/surrealist story just didn't work for me.

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A book that sucks you in and you want to read on. What a bold and compelling book. Definitely an interesting read.

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Compelling novel of what life looks like when we can be the ghost looking back through the years trying to explain our actions and the outcomes. Beautiful scenes of love, justification, family and intent.

Thanks to NetGalley and Little, Brown and Company for the opportunity to read this ARC.

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