In this masterful novel of inheritance and loss, Sonya Chung (Long for This World) proves herself a worthy heir to Marguerite Duras, Hwang Sun-won, and James Salter. Spanning generations and divergent cultures, The Loved Ones maps the intimate politics of unlikely attractions, illicit love, and costly reconciliations.
Charles Lee, the young African American patriarch of a biracial family, seeks to remedy his fatherless childhood in Washington, DC, by making an honorable choice when his chance arrives. Years later in the mid-1980s, uneasy and stymied in his marriage to Alice, he finds a connection with Hannah Lee, the teenage Korean American caregiver whose parents’ transgressive flight from tradition and war has left them shrouded in a cloud of secrets and muted passion.
A shocking and senseless death will test every familial bond and force all who are touched by the tragedy to reexamine who their loved ones truly are—the very meaning of the words. Haunting, elliptical, and powerful, The Loved Ones deconstructs the world we think we know and shows us the one we inhabit.
Read the interview with Sonya Chung on Electric Literature: https://electricliterature.com/sonya-chung-on-race-risk-reinvention-885d77c90633#.gwusewgq6
“Sonya Chung’s prose is elegant, sparse, and heartbreaking in a way that reminds one of Elena Ferrante or Clarice Lispector. In this novel of two very different but interconnected families both named Lee, she tells the story of love against the twin inheritances of shame and grief. This book is a complication of the immigrant narrative in a way that is long overdue and necessary. A gorgeous and important second novel.”--Nayomi Munaweera, author of What Lies Between Us
“Sonya Chung’s new novel, The Loved Ones, spans generations and cultures to capture what it means to be a lost child in a lonely world. In compelling prose, Chung lays bare the devastating effects of tragedy on family—then boldly suggests the power to heal lies beyond our loved ones. Shattering assumptions about loss and longing, this shimmering tale of dangerous love will break your heart, and mend it too.”---Bridgett M. Davis, author of Into the Go-Slow
“Within a multigenerational saga about family, race, and difference, The Loved Ones unfurls an elegant love story about two people bound to one another through tragedy yet kept apart by time and circumstance. The pages of this gorgeous novel gave me insight upon insight, characters I grew to love, and the most satisfying ending I’ve read in a very long time.”--Shannon Cain, author of The Necessity of Certain Behaviors, winner of the Drue Heinz Literature Prize
“This is a fearless novel, one that expands the heart. In mapping constellations of yearning and heartbreak as two families come together and fall apart, Sonya Chung not only delivers a sensual, finely wrought page-turner; she executes a radical act of compassion. The Loved Ones is a must-read.” -- Deanna Fei, author of Girl in Glass and A Thread of Sky
"The story of Charles and Alice, their children Veda and Benny, and their babysitter, Hannah, and her parents pushes boundaries. Chung (Long for This World, 2010) takes us from 1951 to 2005 and from Washington D.C. to Korea and Paris, drastically reframing our world by exploring difficult ideas and raising awareness of our capacity for empathy. In achieving this, she joins in the best tradition of world literature. Part immigrant narrative, part coming-of-age fiction, with interwoven themes of interracial marriage, the role of absentee fathers, and the continued hold of the past, this tale charts a nuanced journey that follows no convenient tropes. This is particularly striking in the story of Hannah’s Korean immigrant parents, Chong-ho and Soon-mi. In a book full of complex characters and plot twists, the sparse and elegant prose creates a quietness that allows contemplation of one of life’s big questions, What is love? Chung’s adeptness in capturing the soaring drama of subdued interactions makes this worth a read. But it is her ability to be at once subversive and optimistic, radical and reassuring that makes this a must-read." —Shoba Viswanathan, Booklist
"A gorgeous multigenerational saga of love and race, loss and belonging, Chung’s (Long for This World, 2010) latest follows the intertwining lives of two very different families in Washington, D.C.
"Charles Frederick Douglass Lee, the young African-American patriarch of his biracial family, husband of Alice, father of Veda (9, beautiful) and Benny (6, difficult), is doing for his family what his own father couldn’t, or wouldn’t. As a young soldier stationed in Korea, Charles met Alice, fresh out of the Peace Corps and avoiding medical school at home. Alice got pregnant; Charles proposed, determined to “put his head down, do right, and make a family.” And so they have built a life together, stable if not easy. Then Alice returns to work after years at home, and the family (Alice, really—Charles “didn’t believe in babysitters”) hires Hannah Lee, the stoic 13-year-old daughter of Korean immigrants, to look after the kids. In Hannah, Charles finds unlikely kinship, and the two develop a silent understanding, powerful, unspoken, and deeply intimate. “Hannah had no name for her watchfulness toward Charles, and thus she treasured it all the more,” writes Chung. The watchfulness is mutual. But when tragedy strikes, Charles and Hannah are at once ripped apart and forever bound together, and the Lees—all of them—are forced to renegotiate their relationships with each other and with themselves. Quietly expansive, the novel moves between the stories of the two families, alternating glimpses of the past with the present: Hannah’s parents’ forbidden courtship in Korea and a doomed family trip back to the Hadong countryside 10 years later; Alice’s early adulthood and the night she met Charles. Every last one of Chung’s characters is wholly alive and breathtakingly human, but it’s her portrait of teenage Hannah—always complicated, never romanticized—that makes the novel such a heart-wrenching pleasure.
"Elegant and empathetic, a book impossible to put down." —Kirkus Reviews,
Sonya Chung is the author of the novel Long for This World. She was born in Washington, DC, and graduated from Columbia University and the University of Washington. Currently she lives in New York City and teaches fiction writing at Skidmore College.