Snow Hunters

  • Writer
    Paul Yoon
  • Country
  • Publisher
  • Published Year
  • Genre
    Literature - English and American literatures -


Winner of the Young Lions Fiction Award, Snow Hunters is "a subtle, elegant, poignant read" (, featuring a Korean War refugee who emigrates to Brazil to become a tailor's apprentice and confronts the wreckage of his past.
"Exquisitely enigmatic...a small but radiant star in the current literary firmament" (The Dallas Morning News), Snow Hunters traces the extraordinary journey of Yohan, a twenty-five-year-old North Korean POW refugee who defects from his country at the end of the Korean War, leaving his friends and family behind to seek a new life in a port town on the coast of Brazil.

Though he is a stranger in a strange land, throughout the years in this town, four people slip in and out of Yohan's life: Kiyoshi, the Japanese tailor for whom he works, and who has his own secrets and a past he does not speak of; Peixe, the groundskeeper at the town church; and two vagrant children named Santi and Bia, a boy and a girl, who spend their days in the alleyways and the streets of the town. Yohan longs to connect with these people, but to do so he must sift through the wreckage of his traumatic past so he might let go and move on.

In Snow Hunters, "quotidian-surreal craft-master" (New York magazine) Paul Yoon proves love can dissolve loneliness; that hope can wipe away despair; and that a man who lost a country can find a new home. "The brief, simple sentences that form this elegant tone poem of a novel...have the effect of making you slow down to read them—which is a fitting way to experience the story of a man unmoored by memory and time" (Entertainment Weekly). This is a heartrending story of second chances, told with unerring elegance and absolute tenderness.


  • Publisher's Weekly

    April 29, 2013
    Yoon’s slim, melancholy debut novel (after a previous celebrated story collection, Once the Shore) explores the somber life of Yohan, a North Korean soldier captured in the south during the Korean War. After the war, Yohan is given ocean passage to Brazil, where he becomes an apprentice to an aging Japanese tailor. Descriptions of Yohan’s efforts to learn Brazilian Portuguese and feel present in his new world are interspersed with sometimes-harrowing scenes from the war (where he and his one friend clung desperately to each other), the prison camp, and the Russian occupation of his native country. The small Brazilian port town’s rich and turbulent history of Japanese immigrants and wartime defectors drifts vaguely over Yohan (and the reader), with information given by only a handful of people whom Yohan comes to know, including the local church’s groundskeeper, Peixe, and two peripatetic children who traveled to Brazil on the same ship as Yohan. Yohan forms his closest bond with the girl, Bia, and watches her grow up. Year to year she enters and exits his life with the seasons. When Bia calls to Yohan in her unique way, readers sympathetic to the trauma of losing one’s past and the isolation of displacement will be stirred. Agent: Bill Clegg, WME Entertainment.


  • Kirkus

    June 15, 2013
    A North Korean soldier finds unexpected solace following his self-exile to Brazil in this slender, ethereal first novel from Yoon (Once the Shore: Stories, 2009), a recipient of a 5 Under 35 Award from the National Book Foundation. The book opens just after the end of the Korean War, as a former war captive named Yohan is offered safe passage to Brazil, a country as strange and vibrant as his own was violent and distant. Yohan's agreement brings him into a rare apprenticeship under Kiyoshi, an aged Japanese tailor who works with a dignity underpinned by selflessness. In large part, Yoon's novel is a meditation on the passage of time as much as it is on Yohan's monklike life as Yoon chronicles the slow transformation of Yohan from a refugee to a treasured and essential part of village life. "How completely time could abandon someone," Yoon writes. "How far it could leap." Since the novel's pace is so still and observant, ordinary moments take on a graceful quality that might have gone unnoticed in less skilled hands: the umbrella offered by a stranger during the rain; the unlikely bond of friendship between Yohan and a rough South Korean sailor; the wordless companionship between Yohan and his mentor. A minimalist, well-crafted story about an austere man predisposed to avoidance who ultimately needs the people who fill up his empty spaces.

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  • Library Journal

    March 1, 2013
    A National Book Foundation 5 Under 35 emerging author whose debut collection, "Once the Shore", won a Best Debut Fiction award from National Public Radio, Yoon should do splendidly with this story of a young North Korean named Yohan. At the end of the Korean War, Yohan manages to defect, ending up in a Brazilian port town. Four people make his life less lonely: the Japanese tailor for whom he works, the groundskeeper at the church, and two wild children named Santi and Bia. Interesting that North Korea is surfacing in fiction (see, e.g., Adam Johnson's "The Orphan Master's Son"), and great to see a new work by Yoon.

    Copyright 2013 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.


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