Equal parts hilarity and heartbreak in an accomplished debut.

Eighty Days of Sunlight


In Yune’s moving and darkly comic debut novel, a young Korean-American man struggles to come to terms with his cultural identity and dysfunctional working-class family.

When Jason’s father loses his blue-collar job, he sends his young son and Jason’s antagonistic brother, Tommy, to stay with a friend called “the doctor” and his wife in Princeton, New Jersey, while he looks for work. Once he’s situated in a job at a book bindery in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, Tommy is called home to live with their now-overworked and abusive father, but Jason remains in the doctor’s household, where he’s brought up in affluence and privilege. The father’s suicide brings the rival brothers back together, as Jason discovers he has inherited his father’s house. Both brothers take work at the Wilkes-Barre book bindery, determined that their father’s former workplace holds the secret to his premature death. The brothers are ultimately disappointed by the banal truth surrounding their father’s suicide, and when Tommy is let go after a physical altercation with another employee, Jason eventually leaves the physically and emotionally oppressive work behind to follow his brother and attend college in Pittsburgh. There, the siblings’ tense relationship deepens as Jason attempts to refine his sense of identity and Tommy’s drinking and drug use spiral further out of control. With neither brother able to get much traction in their lives, Jason returns to the doctor’s household for a respite, while his brother comes perilously close to self-destruction. The brothers seem best able to relate as part of triangular relationships, first with their father and later with a charming art student named Kate, and Yune’s exploration of this dynamic is fascinating. The prose is frequently stunning, as in a description of Tommy’s role in a bar fight: “…he was throwing himself before the mercy of the nation’s sharp young men, bulging with bovine growth hormone, testosterone, and date rape.” Yune also proves himself an expert at wry observation: “Reading,” he writes of the dehumanizing atmosphere of the bindery, “was forbidden in the book factory.”

Equal parts hilarity and heartbreak in an accomplished debut.

Pub Date: June 9, 2015

ISBN: 978-1632260444

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Thought Catalog Books/Prospecta Press

Review Posted Online: April 15, 2015

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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.


Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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