Tender, tinder-dry stories about lonely people making their ways through this life.
Yoon (Snow Hunters, 2013, etc.) created a minimalist story of astonishing austerity in his debut novel and largely continues in that vein with his new collection of sad stories. In the opener, “A Willow and the Moon,” an orphaned woman who grew up in a sanitarium in the Hudson Valley tells the story of her coming-of-age, her father’s abandonment of her, and a secret her mother nearly took to the grave. “Still a Fire” is a dual portrait of Mikel, a young man trying to survive in a European shantytown just after World War II, and Karine, the morphine-addicted nurse he meets after he is injured by a stray land mine. In “Galicia,” devoted wife Antje temporarily and impulsively leaves her husband to venture through the Iberian Peninsula with Félix, a handsome young man she meets on a train platform. “Vladivostok Station” is set in Russia and follows Misha, a young man who meets a childhood friend and subsequently reconnects with his father. In the title story, a young Chinese woman named Faye is persuaded by a stranger to return home to Shanghai, with very mixed results. In the finale, “Milner Field,” we get another travelogue about a divorcée and his beloved daughter, but one that mixes in tiny, heartbreaking moments of mortal tragedy. Yoon’s stories are never melodramatic; most of the time nothing much happens, really. But it’s rare to find a writer this patient, one willing to let the stories breathe and play out in their own time. Despite his literary austerity, Yoon’s dazzling use of wordplay, pacing, and the quiet authenticity of his characters to instill emotion in his audience makes him one of the most evocative writers working today.
Six little mysteries that quietly capture the breadth of the human experience.