Once the Shore
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Once the Shore

3.88 of 5 stars 3.88  ·  rating details  ·  243 ratings  ·  36 reviews
With Once the Shore, Paul Yoon delivers an astonishing debut of linked short stories set on a South Korean island.


Spanning over half a century—from the years just before the Korean War to the present—the eight stories in this collection reveal an intricate and unforgettable portrait of a single place in its entirety. An elderly couple embark on a fishing boat in a harrowin

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Paperback, 266 pages
Published April 1st 2009 by Sarabande Books
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Bandit
I enjoyed Paul Yoon's first novel, this short story collection proceeded it and I was looking forward to reading it. What's so incredibly impressive is that Once the Shore is every word as good if not better. For an author so young to write with such emotional maturity, such succinctly stunning narrative...these stories were a powerhouse each in their own quiet way. Just like an artist can use spare brush strokes to convey a landscape, Yoon uses spare plain wording to create an entire world, in...more
Rachel
These stories are what I might call 'luminous,' if I were a book reviewer. But I am a writer, and so I call them 'quiet.' I love the idea of the series of connected short stories; as the location of so many disparate tales Yoon's invented island takes on mythical significance. The book is lovely and haunting and certainly worth reading, but tonally Yoon doesn't take many chances. I found myself mixing one story up with the next, confused as to which I'd read and which I hadn't yet.
Constance
i'm sorry, paul yoon! i wanted to support asian american writers (also you are pretty good-looking and i like the cover and construction of this book), but your writing is both affected and boring. maybe the fact that i know two people who know you from your charmed westchester boyhood lessens your appeal. either way, i have other books to read!
Taka
Lyrical, beautiful, but--

Frankly, the title story blew me away, and the second story, "Among the Wreckage," was also impressive, but the rest weren't as good as those two stories. It was also clear to me at least that Yoon was a prose stylist and not so much a storyteller, and what compelled me to read through this collection was precisely his strength: his lyrical yet deceptively simple prose.

I think he achieves a perfect balance between prose and story in the title story, "Once the Shore," whi...more
Alyson Hagy
This collection is an odd beauty, and I make that statement with admiration. The stories are careful, yet true. They chronicle sadness and loss, but also generosity and deep human connection. The prose is consistently beautiful. The setting is wonderfully described, but Yoon does not become prisoner of his own conceits in this book. The stories flow. I bought the book after recommendations from friends who are fans of short fiction. Their recommendations were spot on. This book is perfect for re...more
Ming
Beautiful. The poetic writing in these various stories is simple, graceful and utterly gorgeous. The gentle tone on the surface contrasts with a certain tension and a particular message, often a wrenching one about loss and injustice from war. I remain in awe at how the author communicates such searing points in evocative language. Wow.
Josh Weil
I just finished Paul Yoon's amazing debut story collection. It took me a while, because I knew from the start that I wanted to savor it. Now, I want to go back through and read it again. These are not your typical stories. They don't seem to work the way most stories -- at least most that I read -- do. You don't read these stories to find out what happens. You read them to exist in the world with the character while the events of that world are happening. In that, Paul Yoon is doing something un...more
Ally Armistead
Paul Yoon's debut is breathtaking. Set on a South Korean island, the stories weave in and out of the lives of inhabitants across a 50-year period. Linked by place, the stories come together to form a quiet, dignified, moving exploration of loss and resilience and love. Many of them illuminate the interaction of Korean, Japanese, and American cultures. Characters are varied, ranging from an orphaned Japanese girl, an American widow and a young waiter at a coastal resort, an oyster-diving old woma...more
Melinda
Paul Yoon's prose is quietly elegant, lovely and direct, constantly pointing to the missing or lonely center of his characters' lives.

Once the Shore is a masterfully written collection, and best rewards the patient reader. Yoon's stories take time to develop, but carry notes of grace and hope. A wonderful collection of short stories readers will be sure to enjoy.
Drew Jameson
Yoon's writing is so gorgeous it can be quite distracting. I frequently would get lost in these wistful sentences and realize that I had lost track of the story. The most effective of these stories were those with the clearest sense of time and place, and the most utilitarian prose: "Once the Shore," "The Hanging Lanterns of Ido," and "Among the Wreckage." The other stories seem to exist in their own lyrical dreamworld. They were beautiful places to get lost, but I did feel lost often, holding o...more
Jenny
This was a very well-crafted series of short stories, all taking place on the fictional island of Solla, off the coast of Korea. Yoon presents a place, characters, and gentle story line to the reader for the purpose of presenting some beautiful writing. The stories are interesting, but are not the main focus. His themes are very sad, but thought-provoking: loss, being an outcast, regret, the consequences of war on the innocent populations at their mercy. There are also several perspectives on th...more
Sarah
Where many reviewers seem to find these stories spare and haunting, I mostly find them gloomy. I can handle sad stories, but these have no glimmer of any humor, just unremitting sadness and, above all, a complete inability for any of these characters to connect with another human being. The stories all take place on a Korean island, which I suppose is the geographic representation of the emotional state of all these characters.
To me, their disconnectedness and quiet, distant way of existing see...more
Hayun
This is a Korean/Korean American writer to watch. He seems to understand how nuanced the cultural, historical, and emotional landscapes can be, which I think is important. A gentle, lyrical, and insistent voice.
Heather Shaw
Ann Patchett says that Paul Yoon writes stories the way Fabergé made eggs — "with untold craftmanship, artistry, and delicacy." ForeWord's Book Club selection for this week is Yoon's short story, "Among the Wreckage," from his first book, Once the Shore (Sarabande, 978-1-932511-70-3). The story of an old marriage, the sea, a war, and a lost son lends itself perfectly to Yoon's exquisite sense of timing, his perfect sentences. Up against his character's panic, Yoon's stylistic restraint creates a...more
Christopher
Happily, this collection, exalted on various literary blogs, and then being the one thing that was agreed upon at a panel I went to at AWP this year (go read Paul Yoon!) was not at all over hyped.
It is cliche to use 'haunting' to describe fiction. These stories though, are quite literally, like ghosts in my head. Each haunting the brain pathways, the endings lingering with unfinished business, painful or revelatory regrets, as if they are just beginning on a wider plane and not concluding.
missy ward-lambert
May 23, 2009 missy ward-lambert rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to missy by: Michael Lowenthal
Shelves: fiction
I don't even know how to review this collection; these stories are so beautifully self-contained that I can't think of anything to add. The stories are lyrical, haunting, lovely, melancholy, perfectly anchored in time and place. I want to read them all again. Stylistically and thematically, these stories resonated with me.

My personal favorites were "Among the Wreckage," "The Woodcutter's Daughter," and "The Hanging Lanterns of Ido," although I enjoyed every single page of the book.
Alicia
Jun 02, 2012 Alicia rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Alicia by: A coworker
A great collection of short stories from a Korean-American author. I lived in Korea for some time and it was a nice way to reconnect with that. There are some really poignant and beautiful moments in the stories, and they're all quite different but fit together nicely into a cohesive collection. I really enjoyed reading it and would reccomend it to others interested in short stories, Asia, World War II, or the ocean.
Emma
I enjoyed this collection of subtle, haunting stories. The stories are all set on a fictional Korean island and span roughly sixty years. Taken as a whole, this set of stories is a quiet, careful meditation on the shifting forms of war and imperialism, and their human costs.
Ploughshares
Paul Yoon's Once the Shore: Stories won our nineteenth annual John C. Zacharis First Book Award. The award honors the best debut book by a Ploughshares writer, alternating between poetry and fiction.

http://www.pshares.org/issues/article...
Mark
Lyrical and beautiful - a collection of short stories connected by the fictitious setting of an island off the coast of South Korea. Patience pays off with this one. A little too much exposition for my taste but I still appreciated the gentle tone of it all.

Andru
Very good stories but perhaps not as good collected as read individually. I liked the book but thought that every story came to sound and feel too much the same when read in sequence.
Nick
Very interesting set of short stories set on a Korean island by a Korean-American writer. These stories delighted me with their poetry and the depth of Yoon's imagination and perception.
Cerise Press
Reviewed in Cerise Press, Summer 2009, Vol. 1 Issue 1
Ana
Sweet, sorrowful, always poignant. I love collections of short stories that are impossible to read straight through. Each of these needs time to ponder.
Anna
Collection of short stories taking place on an island in South Korea - the writing is beautiful and the stories linger. Quite a treat for a quiet afternoon.
Charles White
The early stories are spare and beautiful; however, the later ones are too quiet for my taste and become something of a labor.
Abby
The writing wants to be beautiful and lyrical but is instead plodding and boring.
Olivia
Oct 07, 2010 Olivia marked it as to-read
Shelves: young-writers
National Book Foundation's 5 under 35: http://www.nationalbook.org/5under35.....
Joseph
Jul 28, 2014 Joseph rated it 1 of 5 stars
Shelves: fict, bc3
I read the first four stories and couldn't make myself read any more.
Paula Margulies
Lovely stories -- heart-breaking, haunting, and lyrical.
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Paul Yoon was born in New York City. He lives in Massachusetts and is the Roger F. Murray Chair in Creative Writing at Phillips Academy.
More about Paul Yoon...
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