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This “sweeping intergenerational saga" tells the story of a pampered and defiant South Korean matriarch thrust into the afterlife from which she seeks a second chance to make amends (Kirstin Chen)—and fights off a tragic curse that could devastate generations to come.
In South Korea, a 105-year-old woman receives a letter. Ten days later, she has been thrust into the afterlife, fighting to head off a curse that will otherwise devastate generations to come.
Hak Jeonga has always shouldered the burden of upholding the family name. When she sent her daughter-in-law to America to cover up an illegitimate birth, she was simply doing what was needed to preserve the reputations of her loved ones. How could she have known that decades later, this decision would return to haunt her—threatening to tear apart her bond with her beloved son, her relationship with her infuriatingly insolent sisters, and the future of the family she has worked so hard to protect?
Part ghost story and part family epic, The Apology is an incisive tale of sisterhood and diaspora, reaching back to the days of Japanese colonialism and the Korean War, and told through the singular voice of a defiant, funny, and unforgettable centenarian.
About the Author
Jimin Han was born in Seoul, South Korea, and grew up in Providence, Rhode Island; Dayton, Ohio; and Jamestown, New York. Her work has been supported by the New York State Council on the Arts. She is the author of A Small Revolution and has written for American Public Media's Weekend America, Poets & Writers, and Catapult, and other media outlets. She teaches at The Writing Institute at Sarah Lawrence College, Pace University, and community writing centers. She lives outside New York City with her husband and children.
"The Apology… is a lovely, caustic and trauma-soaked example of the new literary embrace of actual ghosts."—The Chicago Tribune
“Jeonga’s narration is sharp and witty and a touch sly as she describes her present, disembodied state—the in-between, purgatory-like space her consciousness now occupies—as well as the events that led to her death…This is an enthralling multigenerational tale of familial secrets, trauma and healing.”—The New York Times
“Han’s narrator is sly, funny, and flawed…[The Apology is] a satisfying tale with vivid relationships that will keep readers curious about this complex family shaped by war, loyalty, class-consciousness, and love.”—Booklist
“Jeonga Cha is a wholly original character…While such a plot could have been the stuff of tragedy, Han mines the material largely for its comic potential. Whether dead or alive, Jeonga is a larger-than-life character, stubborn, judgmental, always active…The Apology is an imaginative work that draws upon traditional Korean Buddhist beliefs about the afterlife to explore the long-term consequences of decisions made under the value system of a different era.”—Minneapolis Star-Tribune
"Reputation comes first in this arresting drama about an elderly Korean woman dealing with her past...Brilliantly, we get to see how many of Jeonga’s choices are linked to family secrets and Korea’s cultural history—particularly its occupation by Japan and the war that split the country in two. The Apology is a life-affirming story about finding family and making amends."—Apple Books
“The Apology is an uncanny high wire act—arch, tender, mercurial. Jimin Han feels like Iris Murdoch’s heir here, even as this novel came from an artistry that is all her own. This is a story unlike any other of Korea and America, and of a mother’s love—majestic, a deathless avenger, shrewd and wild; an ajumma willing to do anything for her family, including defying death.”—Alexander Chee, author of How to Write an Autobiographical Novel
"What does it mean to be the keeper of the stories? What does it mean to be left behind? The Apology shows Jimin Han's talents as a skillful storyteller, interweaving questions of sisterhood and separation, generational secrets and ancestral love, through a singular and unforgettable centenarian voice." —Lisa Ko, author of The Leavers
"What a superb story this is, unweaving the tangle of family history—and the wrongheaded honor that has walled out love—as this remarkable novel moves from the unguessable to the expansively imagined. It’s a maze of leaps—across boundaries beyond the known—as one woman grapples with the impossible question of how wrongs can be righted. A memorable and wonderfully original book."—Joan Silber, author of Secrets of Happiness
"The Apology is a vividly rendered novel about the long life spans of secrets, featuring an unforgettable 105-year-old narrator who is as stubborn and proud as she is spirited. With depth, emotion, and total clarity of vision, Jimin Han has crafted a wonderfully moving story about love and loss, betrayal and forgiveness, and the lengths that one woman will go to in this world and the next to undo the mistakes of the past."—Jung Yun, author of O Beautiful and Shelter
"An intriguing, genre-bending novel that proves that the bonds—and grudges—of siblinghood exist beyond the grave. Insightful about secret-keeping and hopeful about the redemptive power of love, Jimin Han is a literary medium for imperfect families."—Courtney Maum, author of The Year of the Horses
“Like magic, this book is at once a page-turning mystery, a supernatural odyssey, a family saga, and a Korean melodrama. Count me forever among Han’s audience.” —Matthew Salesses, author of The Sense of Wonder and Craft in the Real World
“Jimin Han's The Apology is a captivating multigenerational story of love and secrets, forgiveness and redemption, and about how our decisions and actions can reverberate through time, touching the lives of others in ways we cannot anticipate. Han's clear-eyed insights and rich imaginative powers are on full and impressive display in this intricately-woven portrait of a fierce, determined, and wickedly funny matriarch at the end of her life (and beyond). An original and memorable novel. I did not want it to end!”—Mary-Kim Arnold, author of Litany for the Long Moment and The Fish and the Dove
"Jimin Han’s The Apology delights and surprises at every turn—at every chapter, every page. The narrator is a cranky centennial! There are family secrets plus wonderful comedic passages in a novel that doesn’t shy from history or death. It's a comic novel with a serious touch, it's a serious novel with a comic touch, it's the rare combo, serious and comic all at once, deeply felt, deeply alive, brilliantly rendered and willing to explore the complicated affiliations that form along bloodlines, generational divides, class, and love. Also? A hell of a good read, generous with its ghosts both literal and figurative, told with wit and relish."—Juan Martinez, author of Best Worst American and Extended Stay
“With a deft brush, Han paints the quirks and preoccupations of old age as the secrets of her heroine jettison her across the world and right smack into another one, literally. What follows is an inspiring, often funny, and always engaging tale of the complications of familial love.” —Gloria Hatrick, author of Masks
“Han’s riveting, multi-generational family epic is a wonder—a journey that takes us across continents and worlds, and plunges us into the deepest reaches of the human heart. In Jeonga, Han gives us the profoundly moving portrait of a family matriarch who must sacrifice all in her determination to save her descendants; in doing so, she also ultimately redeems herself.”—Kate Brandt, author of Hope for the Worst
“Jimin Han has woven a marvelous, madcap novel of love and loyalty, the living and the dead, and a family that’s haunted—by the past, by war, by distance and silence carried on across generations. At turns hilarious and heartbreaking, The Apology tells the tale of Jeonga, a proud, isolated, deeply judgmental and wholly unforgettable centenarian matriarch whose dedication to keeping up appearances leads to her ultimate undoing—and her one chance at redemption. An epic, intricate, and wildly entertaining journey of reckoning and reconnection, across oceans and astral planes, The Apology is a powerful fable of family secrets and the lengths we go to keep them—and how the truth, in the end, will set us free.”—Melissa Faliveno, author of Tomboyland
“The sins of the parents revisited on the children—it’s an iconic theme but one that feels razor-sharp in Jimin Han’s new novel, The Apology. Jeonga Cha, a wealthy and prideful South Korean centenarian, gets a rude awakening when a decision of passion she made decades ago seems destined to cause catastrophe for her progeny. Her need to correct her mistake takes her around the world and even into the afterlife, where she confronts truths she never wanted to face as she pursues a better outcome. Unique and totally absorbing, The Apology is a story that delves into matters of family, love, tradition and harsh self-awareness as it exposes the secrets we hold from others – and those we keep from ourselves."—Barbara Josselsohn, author The Lilac House and The Cranberry Inn
"In The Apology, Jimin Han gives us a complex centenarian character motivated by love and family in Jeonga, the youngest of four wealthy Korean women. Han’s exquisite descriptions and unfolding of secrets kept me engrossed, even when Jeonga was at her most undesirable. Seriously, I did not want this book to end! Refreshing to have such a new take on tradition, reputation, and the smallness of our world."—DeMisty D. Bellinger, author of New to Liberty and Peculiar Heritage
"In The Apology, Jimin Han deftly threads a comedic line through a multigenerational family chock full of grievances and perceived slights. The impudent yet vulnerable narrator Jeonga shows us something she’d never reveal to her sisters: her pain and her joy. She’ll fight to the death—and beyond—to do what she thinks is right, and she’ll win the hearts of readers while doing so." —Ed Lin, author of Ghost Month
“A riveting, hilarious, and moving tale of a woman on a journey through two countries, and two planes of existence. An authentic and wonderfully executed tale of secrets and their consequences.” —Minsoo Kang, author of Of Tales and Enigmas and the translator of the Penguin Classics edition of The Story of Hong Gildong
“In The Apology, Jimin Han has proven herself to be an ace storyteller, observing the hilarious micro-interactions of her characters, while also taking us on an epic journey over many generations and many realms. As we view the world through the eyes of Jeonga, her 105 year old narrator, we may laugh at her self-absorption and blind spots, but Han manages to also make us feel the slights and stings she endures, and long for her redemption and peace.” —Deborah Zoe Laufer, author/playwright, End Days, Informed Consent, Be Here Now
“The Apology is a remarkable achievement, weaving together psychological suspense, Korean myth, and an intense scrutiny of family relationships as these are influenced by war and history. Calling to mind the scathing emotional precision of Elena Ferrante and the Korean gender and social critique of Han Kang, Jimin Han is a force to be reckoned with in this novel - and so is Mrs. Jeonga Cha, resourceful and brave matriarch, both in this life and the next.” —Chaya Bhuvaneswar, author of White Dancing Elephants
"It begins with a bus accident, but really it began so long ago. THE APOLOGY is a work of tenderness and empathy, a portrait of family and memory, of different generations colliding across multiple dimensions both literal and the afterlife. Jimin Han has conjured more than ghosts here, and you should listen to her story." —Michael J. Seidlinger, author of Anybody Home? and Scream (Object Lessons)
“Han's remarkable story, at times hilarious, always gripping, took me on a journey with her unrelenting 105 year-old protagonist who refuses to let anything, even death, stop her from saving her family from the impending disaster she put into motion decades earlier. I couldn't stop reading until I reached the last word, and then I read it again." —Patricia Dunn, author of Last Stop on the 6 and Rebels by Accident
“Bold, original, and utterly captivating, The Apology is a sweeping intergenerational saga, delivered by one of the sharpest, most memorable voices I've ever read. A stunning new novel by a writer whose work I've long admired.”—Kirstin Chen, author of Counterfeit