‘Snow Hunters’ explores Korean War through dreamlike prose

Brooklyn BookBeat

July 29, 2013 From Simon & Schuster
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Paul Yoon’s short story collection “Once the Shore“ was a New York Times Notable Book; a “Best Book of the Year” selection from the Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Publishers Weekly and Minneapolis Star Tribune; and a NPR “Best Debut Fiction” selection for 2009. Yoon was also honored as one of the 5 under 35 by the National Book Foundation in 2010.

Yoon’s highly anticipated debut novel “Snow Hunters” (Simon & Schuster; Aug. 6, 2013) promises to be even more beloved than the collection of stories that introduced Yoon to the literary world. His original draft was over 500 pages, allowing him to intimately know his characters. Yet Yoon cut away from this start to reveal a slim and perfect 200 page novel. His artistry and command of language is simply astonishing. “The length of ‘Snow Hunters’, or its identity, was never pre-determined,” said Yoon. “I simply wanted to write the biggest story I could in the most concise way possible.” The author will launch his book in Brooklyn on August 7 at Greenlight Bookstore in Fort Greene.

Through spare, elegant prose, “Snow Hunters” takes you around the world and through war reconstruction, and rehabilitation. Yohan, a North Korean war refugee, defects from his county seeking a new life in a quiet port town on the coast of Brazil. Despite the exotic scenery and unfamiliar language, Yohan cannot escape the ghosts of his past. Upon arriving in Brazil, he soon suffers from textbook symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Of Yohan’s path, Yoon explains, “over the years he’s built this great emotional distance, a fissure he’s unable to step over. And I think a part of the book is about his slow path toward recovery, of building a bridge to the other side, so to speak.”

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Though he is a stranger in a strange land, four people slip in and out of Yohan’s life: Kiyoshi, the Japanese tailor for whom he works, and who has his own secrets and a past he does not speak of; Peixe, the groundskeeper at the town church; and two vagrant children named Santi and Bia, a boy and a girl, who spend their days in the alleyways and the streets of the town. Yohan longs to connect with these people, but to do so he must sift through his traumatic past so he might let go and move on.

In “Snow Hunters”, Yoon proves that love can dissolve loneliness, that hope can wipe away despair, and that a man who has lost a country can find a new home. This is a heartrending story of second chances told with unerring elegance and absolute tenderness.

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The Aug. 7 event will begin at 7:30 p.m. Greenlight is located at 686 Fulton St. in Fort Greene.

Paul Yoon was born in New York City. His first book was the story collection Once the Shore. It was selected as a New York Times Notable Book, a Best Debut Fiction by National Public Radio, and won the Asian American Literary Award and the 5 under 35 Award from the National Book Foundation.

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