Snow Hunters traces the extraordinary journey of Yohan, who defects from his country at the end of the Korean War, leaving his friends and family behind to seek a new life on the coast of Brazil. Throughout his years there, four people slip in and out of his life: Kiyoshi, the Japanese tailor for whom he works; Peixe, the groundskeeper at the town church; and two vagrant children named Santi and Bia. Yohan longs to connect with these people, but to do so he must let go of his traumatic past.
In Snow Hunters, Yoon proves that love can dissolve loneliness, that hope can wash away despair, and that a man who has lost a country can find a new home. This is a heartrending story of second chances, told with unerring elegance and tenderness.
©2013 Paul Yoon (P)2013 Simon & Schuster
First impression: There is beauty in the words. You feel the North Korean war refugee's aloofness in his new country, Brazil. The distance he feels and his reticence is palpable. Narration by the author adds to the lines' impact. A blanket of quiet overlays the story.
People can talk without words. What is not said can speak louder than what is said. And what a person does doesn’t always reflect what they are really saying. This book captures that. It draws a world of silence and solitude that does speak and does convey a message. You watch what happens. You feel the atmosphere. There is a distance to all that happens and to the characters themselves. The manner in which this is achieved is artistically done. Beautiful rather than boring. You are drawn in. Slowly, slowly this North Korean war refugee assimilates and comes to feel at home in his new country, in an unnamed village in Brazil. S-l-o-w-l-y the past recedes, the memories blur and he melts into a new life. You read this book to feel his dislocation, the alienation of one who leaves one country for another. Leaving both horrible memories and good memories, sort of like stapling up picture upon picture until the pictures at the bottom aren’t gone but are superseded by others that are newer, stronger, more vibrant. You cannot just rip out those pictures at the bottom, can you?
Is the ending realistic? No, maybe not, but I am OK with that. You do not read this book to follow the plot line from A to Z. Neither does the story follow a chronological order. Memories come and go, and that is how you learn of the past
An atmospheric novel, to be read to understand how it is to be completely alone in a new world. You never start from scratch, since we all have our own pasts.
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