cover image The Mountain

The Mountain

Paul Yoon. Simon & Schuster, $25 (256p) ISBN 978-1-5011-5408-9

The second collection from Yoon (Once the Shore) is composed of six quiet, precisely told short stories bound by the longing for meaning and connection embodied by its mostly migrant protagonists, each of whom has suffered either direct or indirect trauma from wars fought by previous generations. 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. In “A Willow and the Moon,” a man returns after serving in World War II to an abandoned sanatorium in the Hudson Valley where his mother had volunteered when he was a child, ultimately seeking answers to the mysteries of his family’s past. In “Still a Fire,” a young man named Mikel, living in the shantytowns of northern France in the destruction left behind after World War II, suffers a terrible tragedy and is cared for by a morphine-addicted nurse on her own search for meaning after having served with the Red Cross during the war years. And in the title story, a bleakly futuristic vision of East Asia, a young woman returns home to China from Korea, working in a sweatshop producing cameras while also reckoning with her own traumatic past and the devastation it wreaks in the present. These characters are often foreign in some way to the places in which they find themselves, and 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. Agent: Bill Clegg, the Clegg Agency. (Aug.)