cover image O Beautiful

O Beautiful

Jung Yun. St. Martin’s, $27.99 (320p) ISBN 978-1-250-27432-8

In Yun’s revelatory sophomore outing (after Shelter), a former model turned freelance journalist’s big magazine assignment sends her back to her hometown in North Dakota. Elinor Hanson grew up near the Bakken Formation with her Air Force father, who is white, and her Korean mother, and the assignment, which she took over from a former professor, Richard, involves reporting on the oil boom in nearby Avery, N.Dak. On the flight from New York City, Elinor faces sexual harassment and discrimination for being Asian, experiences that recur throughout the novel. As Elinor interviews men who came from all over the country in pursuit of the economic opportunities provided by the oil industry, she learns that some of her former grad-school colleagues are preparing to sue Richard for sexual harassment. Elinor also begins asking around town about a woman who disappeared two years earlier, but her editor, who is romantically involved with Richard, admonishes her not to write a “dead-girl story.” By the end of Yun’s tightly plotted narrative, Elinor has figured out the angle of her story in a way that ties together the drama around Richard and the problems in her hometown. Yun successfully takes on a host of hot button subjects, drilling through them with her protagonist’s laser-eyed focus. (Nov.)