In “a spectacular display of intelligence and feeling” (Publishers Weekly, starred review), Paul Yoon’s collection of short stories ranges throughout the world—from the Hudson Valley to the Russian Far East—across periods of time after World War II, hailed as a "genuine work of art...tough and elegant and true" (The Boston Globe).
In The Mountain, award-winning and acclaimed author Paul Yoon reveals his subtle, ethereal, and strikingly observant style with six thematically linked stories, taking place across several continents and time periods and populated with characters who are connected by their traumatic pasts, newly vagrant lives, and quests for solace in their futures. Though they exist in their own distinct worlds (from a sanatorium in the Hudson Valley to an inn in the Russian far east) they are united by the struggle to reconcile their traumatic pasts in the wake of violence, big and small, spiritual and corporeal. A morphine-addicted nurse wanders through the decimated French countryside in search of purpose; a dissatisfied wife sporadically takes a train across Spain with a much younger man in the wake of a building explosion; a lost young woman emigrates from Korea to Shanghai, where she aimlessly works in a camera sweat shop, trying fruitlessly to outrun the ghosts of her past.
In this "fantastic collection" (Los Angeles Times), “Paul Yoon’s dazzling use of wordplay, pacing, and the quiet authenticity of his characters…makes him one of the most evocative writers working today” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review). With The Mountain, “Yoon proves himself a literary alchemist, transforming tragedy into beauty with deft reminders of our universal connections…Joining such luminaries as Jhumpa Lahiri, Junot Díaz, and Alice Munro, Yoon has undoubtedly earned membership in the exclusive coterie of today’s finest writers of the short form” (Library Journal, starred review).
The second collection from Yoon (Once the Shore) is composed of six quiet, precisely told short stories bound by the longing for meaning and connection embodied by its mostly migrant protagonists, each of whom has suffered either direct or indirect trauma from wars fought by previous generations. These stories span multiple continents and time periods to arrive at human truths about how greatly our lives are affected and influenced by our shared histories. In "A Willow and the Moon," a man returns after serving in World War II to an abandoned sanatorium in the Hudson Valley where his mother had volunteered when he was a child, ultimately seeking answers to the mysteries of his family's past. In "Still a Fire," a young man named Mikel, living in the shantytowns of northern France in the destruction left behind after World War II, suffers a terrible tragedy and is cared for by a morphine-addicted nurse on her own search for meaning after having served with the Red Cross during the war years. And in the title story, a bleakly futuristic vision of East Asia, a young woman returns home to China from Korea, working in a sweatshop producing cameras while also reckoning with her own traumatic past and the devastation it wreaks in the present. These characters are often foreign in some way to the places in which they find themselves, and Yoon expertly interrogates the meaning of nationhood and the universality of the migrant experience. Most often the stories are structured as montages of inner experience; moments of connection are the sparks that ignite these otherwise meditative, reflective narratives. The result is a spectacular display of intelligence and feeling.