cover image Skinship


Yoon Choi. Knopf, $25.95 (304p) ISBN 978-0-593-31821-8

Journeys large and small, physical and emotional, dominate the eight stories in Choi’s poignant debut collection. “The Church of Abundant Life” focuses on Soo-ah, a Korean transplant who yearns to travel from Pennsylvania to Maryland for a religious revival led by an old friend, much to her husband’s chagrin. In “First Language,” Sae-ri and her arranged-marriage spouse, James, drive to retrieve their troubled son after his expulsion from a Christian-based reform camp called the Second Chance Ranch for making sexual advances toward other boys. Teenager So-hyun, who escapes her abusive father with her mother and brother, narrates the title story, which takes a sharp turn when the quartet is reunited years later in America. “Song and Song,” employing a mother’s death to generate a rift between sisters, also hinges on a reunion, this time in England. More end-of-life drama is found in “The Art of Losing,” in which elderly Mo-sae labors to retain memories as he steadily declines, and “The Loved Ones,” which chronicles a single day in the life of a home hospice aide attending to a dying man. While Choi tends to lean on similar narrative elements, she handles them with skill and humanity, and succeeds in making every character complex. Each voice has something meaningful to say in this accomplished collection. (Aug.)