The Mountain: Stories

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.

Though The Mountain's stories range across more than a century and inhabit settings that include upstate New York, Galicia and Russia's Pacific coast, they're united by the distant echo of war. Yoon illuminates how the tragic consequences of conflict linger long after the guns fall silent. World War I soldiers are sent to recover from their injuries in a Hudson Valley sanatorium in "A Willow and the Moon." In "Milner Field," a stunning incident involves a weapon given as an expression of gratitude for a lifesaving act by a Japanese commanding officer to one of his troops.

The collection's title story is its most haunting. Its protagonist, Faye, was born in Shanghai, where her father worked in a chemical plant, but returned to South Korea as a teenager. When she's recruited for a mind-numbing job on the assembly line of a Chinese camera factory, she gradually unearths fragments of a past that yield both physical and psychological trauma.

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. The 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. --Harvey Freedenberg, attorney and freelance reviewer

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