Snow Hunters, by Paul Yoon (2013)

Genre: Historical Fiction
Interest Level: Adult (definitely)
Snow HuntersWhat a gem of a book! It’s a tiny tome (under 200 pages) that feels both spare and eloquent. This book is like a beautifully crafted wooden salad bowl. Its purpose is clear, but it feels so strikingly beautiful, you just want to admire it! I sense the author spent uncountable hours choosing every word, trying each one out, holding them up for inspection, tossing them aside if they didn’t meet his exacting standard. The novel opens with an intriguing set-up. Yohan is a soldier who is a refugee, a defector from the war in Korea. Freed from the prisoner-of-war camp that has been his home for two years, Yohan seeks to find a new home in Brazil, landing on its shore after a month-long voyage across the ocean. Rain is falling on the land of unending sun, and he trudges up a hill to knock on the door of a tailor, employment letter in hand. Readers will taste the rain, smell the sea and see the grey, bunched-up buildings and fields of green as Yohan learns to make sense of this strange land, people and language. He’s an outsider, a wallflower who doesn’t know how to join in, and his memories keep him company, delighting the reader. The novel shifts back and forth in time as Yohan recalls a bit of mischief with his father, a moment of tenderness with a nurse, the shocking image of a bare foot after a bomb blast. Yoon explores the role of memory in our lives, how they connect us to both place and time. I felt like I was relaxing in a bath as I read this book. Something about it made me want to slow down and savour the creative achievement, and use every sense I could to do so. The story is touching and hopeful, but really, plot isn’t the point here. This is a first novel by Yoon, who won a 5 Under 35 award after enjoying accolades for his short story collection, Once the Shore.
More discussion and reviews of this novel: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/16120702-snow-hunters

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About Michelle Mallette
I'm just trying to keep track of the books I've read - what I liked and what isn't worth re-reading. My work as a librarian has included youth services so you'll find a wide range of interests from picture books and teen dystopia to adult sci-fi, road trip novels, and nonfiction. Comments and communication is always welcome.

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