Early in Catherine Chung’s debut novel, Forgotten Country, the narrator’s mother and aunt, as girls in Korea soon after the war, come upon an unexploded bomb in the woods.
“It can’t go off now, can it?” her mother asks.
“Of course it can,” the sister answers. “It happens all the time, don’t you know anything?”
The bomb does not go off, and the sisters make up afterward, and when the elder sister goes to university, she is taken in the night by North Korean agents and never heard from again.