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The Mountain: Stories Hardcover – August 15, 2017
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PRAISE FOR THE MOUNTAIN BY PAUL YOON
"Believe me: This is a genuine work of art, a shadowland of survivors that is tough and elegant and true. And beautiful." —The Boston Globe
“The Mountain is quiet, restrained and howling beneath the surface...a fantastic collection."—The LA Times
"Reading The Mountain is like admiring a glowing sunset before realizing that what you're really watching is a wildfire heading your way....his sentences read like Hemingway stripped of his machismo...The Mountain is remarkable...as close as the short story can get to poetry without losing its grip on plot..." —The Star Tribune
“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)
"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."—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"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....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."—Publisher's Weekly (starred review)
"Both careful and confident, The Mountain shows that a classic approach to a classic form can still feel vital and relevant when in the hands of a perfectionist like Paul Yoon."—GQ
“Elegant, luminous…A heartbreaking yet beautiful rumination on tragedy, loneliness, grief, and displacement." —Buzzfeed
"Radiant...Yoon uses precise, measured prose to create atmospheric narratives that lack neat resolutions. The Mountain’s overall mood is one of wistfulness—a feeling that stays with the reader after the final page has been turned."—Bookpage
"The six stories in Paul Yoon's (Snow Hunters) second collection, The Mountain, are almost shocking in their simplicity. Possessing a fable-like sensibility, each one is a quietly elegant examination of how survivors of various sorts carry on in the face of profound loss. Yoon's strikingly uninflected prose heightens both the tension and the resonance of these tales…It's impossible to separate the content of these stories from the daringly unembellished quality of Yoon's writing, where omission often feels as meaningful as the words on the page…Yoon's unadorned prose is of a piece with the fragility of these delicate stories. Individually and collectively they comprise an exquisite and memorable work of art.”—Shelf Awareness
“The Mountain is atmospherically so compelling, and describes so movingly the loneliness and courage of these characters. Paul Yoon mines the interstices of our experience—it’s full of pregnant spaces—we are haunted by all that isn’t said. This is the voice with which we speak to ourselves when no one is listening. The book is profound, in the way that W.G. Sebald’s work is—like him, Yoon’s voice is quiet and sincere and urgent—and that’s what makes the collection so powerful, and what ties the collection together. The characters are disconnected, yet we feel deeply connected to them. It’s mysterious and elusive and distinctive, a brilliant collection of stories, and a unified work of art.” —Daniyal Mueenuddin, author of In Other Rooms, Other Wonders, finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award
"Paul Yoon writes as if in a state of grace. In The Mountain, he moves across continents and time periods with breathtaking assurance, setting minutely observed individual lives against the tidal pull of history. He tells the story of border crossings, both literal and metaphorical. We are all migrants in one way or another; The Mountain narrates our shared story of movement." —Katie Kitamura, critically-acclaimed author of A Separation and The Longshot
About the Author
Paul Yoon was born in New York City. His first book, Once the Shore, was selected as a New York Times Notable Book, a Best Debut of the Year by National Public Radio and won a 5 under 35 Award from the National Book Foundation. His novel, Snow Hunters, won the 2014 Young Lions Fiction Award. He is a former fellow at the New York Public Library’s Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers, and his stories have appeared in Harper’s Magazine, VQR, the PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories, and The Best American Short Stories. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he is currently a Briggs-Copeland Lecturer at Harvard University along with his wife, the writer Laura van den Berg.
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This short story collection is linked by the pain and suffering endured, across continents, across different eras, each involving some traumatic event, traumatic pasts. Uprooted lives lived without a place to call home, each person on a quest for the peace they believed in their hearts they were worthy of, and could hope to attain.
“A Willow and the Moon” – Having grown up in a sanitarium in Hudson Valley, a woman relays the story of her years lived there, her father’s abandonment, and a secret just shy of being taken into the grave. Set in New York and England. This was my favourite of this collection. 5 stars
“Still a Fire” – a post WWII story of the years 1947-48, a man, Mikel, and a woman, Karine, his nurse, and their individual battles to live to tell their tales. This takes a decidedly war-time look at pain and suffering, and includes some battles with addiction. Set in France. 4 stars
“Galicia” – Antje, a loving and faithful wife, meets Félix, a stranger, at a train station. Though she loves her husband, she follows this man Félix, as though under a spell, unable to bring herself to change her course of action. Set in Spain. 3 stars
“Vladivostok Station” – On his way home Misha sees someone he used to know, and reconnects with this old childhood friend and his father. 4 stars
“The Mountain” – a twenty-six year-old woman in South Korea, Faye, homeless, sitting at a bus stop, is approached about a job by a young, handsome, well-dressed man. He gives her the details of a ferryboat, the time, the pier number, the day and the time. He speaks to her in Mandarin, saying “Come back home.” 4 Stars
“Milner Field” – a soon-to-be-divorcee, his daughter, his father, and a story the father shares with his son, one he’s never shared before. A journey, a quest, soon follows to connect with this family of his father’s childhood. Set in New York and England, in the present. 5 stars
Yoon’s gift is that he can turn these sad stories, each involving some heartbreaking, tragedy-filled moments, and weave them quietly into lovely, poetic, breathtakingly austere works of art, paced to perfection, each deliberately chosen word, space, pause speaks volumes about tragedy and its role in this shared human experience we call life. Our hearts breaking over and over, daily it seems anymore, each act of violence, all the suffering in every corner of the world, and yet we still hold fast to our dreams, to hope.
”When the silence isn't quiet
And it feels like it's getting hard to breathe
And I know you feel like dying
But I promise we'll take the world to its feet
And move mountains
We'll take it to its feet
And move mountains”
Rise Up, Andra Day - Written by Cassandra Monique Batie, Jennifer Decilveo
Many thanks for the ARC provided by Simon and Schuster
When I requested The Mountain, by Paul Yoon, from NetGalley, I admit I did not realize it was a collection of short stories. This format has always been a challenge for me. I have a hard time with the brevity of the tale, and often feel that the characters are not developed enough for me to be engaged. But I was pleasantly surprised by this book. With an economy of words, the author quickly sets a tone for each story and makes the reader care about each character. The result is a group of stories that will haunt your dreams, and perhaps cause some nightmares, too.
What I Liked:
According to the books description, each story is somehow associated to another in the collection. Sometimes the connection is obvious, but most of the time, I had to really think about what one story attached to another. It was a fun challenge to figure this out.
I thought the writing of the book to be beautiful in it's prose. Paul Yoon was able to quickly create circumstances where these characters existed and searched for meaning and connection. Many of the settings are times and places that are dealing with the aftermath of war. As displaced people try to reestablish their lives, they seem to grasp at any memory they may have to latch on to a moment when they felt safe and happy.
What I Was Mixed About:
Many of the characters in each story are wanderers who seem let random circumstances carry them from one situation to another. They seemed adrift in the world, without the usual ties of family, friends, community, or careers. This passivity was hard for me to accept. Don't most people have some intent each day, if for nothing else than to eat and find shelter for the night's rest? They all seemed to be searching for purpose, which was probably the point. But I found it hard to believe that people could be so random in major life choices.
What I Didn't Like:
Lack Of Resolution:
I still have problems with the short story format. While these stories were beautifully written, they were snapshots into the lives of these people. Not much was resolved. Since the author was able to create such vivid characters, I found this to be frustrating. I cared about the people in each story and wanted to see how things would be resolved. The result is that these stories are beautiful, but rather bleak.