cover image Run Me to Earth

Run Me to Earth

Paul Yoon. Simon & Schuster, $26 (272p) ISBN 978-1-5011-5404-1

Yoon (The Mountain) asks whether anyone can truly survive the ruins of war in this sparely written gem. In 1969, inhabitants of war-ravaged Laos struggle with political conflicts and a landscape in which civilians regularly cope with the ugly consequences of accidentally setting off unexploded ordnance. Three homeless teenagers—Alisak and brother and sister Prany and Noi, all friends since childhood—are recruited to work for a makeshift hospital set up in an abandoned mansion. The three navigate dangerous terrain on motorbikes to deliver supplies, and bond with Vang, the French doctor in charge. When the day comes to evacuate, the four are separated. Yoon masterfully weaves their divergent story lines, unveiling the different trajectories of their lives. While Alisak manages a bicycle and moped shop in the Spanish countryside, Vang and Prany are imprisoned and tortured for seven years and later plot revenge on their tormentors. Yoon’s eloquent, sensitive character study of Alisak, who deeply misses his friends well into his 60s, illustrates how the horrors of the past can linger, no matter how far one travels from the source. This is a finely wrought tale about courage and endurance. Agent: Bill Clegg, The Clegg Agency. (Jan.)