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Once the Shore

3.88  ·  Rating Details ·  353 Ratings  ·  44 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

Paperback, 266 pages
Published April 1st 2009 by Sarabande Books
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Kate Savage
Sep 04, 2015 Kate Savage rated it it was amazing
Ever since Flannery O'Connor explained writing to me -- against all my best objections -- I've been looking for writers who know how to create a symbol. An object that has heft and a smell and texture and wasn't placed there to do anything but exist, but then afterwards haunts the reader with its greedy accretion of meaning (think of the prosthetic leg in "Good Country People").

Crotchety O'Connor would be proud of Paul Yoon and the sewing machines, dried squid, marbles, abandoned fishing boats,
Nov 12, 2013 Bandit rated it really liked it
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
Mar 03, 2010 Rachel rated it liked it
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.
Dec 28, 2011 Taka rated it liked it
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
Lynne Fort
Dec 25, 2016 Lynne Fort rated it it was amazing
Because this is such a nuanced and complex set of stories, I think everyone would get something different out of it. But if you asked me what I thought this collection of short stories was about, I would say it's about all the people and things that go away and never come back, no matter how hard you wish for them, and sometimes you never know what became of them. Definitely a collection to linger over.
Jan 09, 2013 Ming rated it really liked it
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.
Jul 06, 2009 Constance rated it it was ok
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!
Josh Weil
Jan 11, 2009 Josh Weil rated it it was amazing
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
Heather Shaw
Apr 06, 2009 Heather Shaw rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
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
Alyson Hagy
Jun 24, 2010 Alyson Hagy rated it really liked it
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
Aug 10, 2015 Huey rated it really liked it
Short stories that resonated. Worth a read.
John Armstrong
Mar 05, 2017 John Armstrong rated it liked it
I would maybe rate this book a point higher if it were not by an author of Korean heritage writing about Korea. I felt that the Korea he writes about was a gauzy idealization of his own creation and has little connection - at least that I could feel with my own limited experience - to the real Korea. Also his lyrical style seemed very "un-Korean" to me, though that may say more about Korean writing than about his own.
Ally Armistead
Oct 17, 2011 Ally Armistead rated it really liked it
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
Jun 09, 2010 Sarah rated it it was ok
Shelves: grown-up-books
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
Jan 26, 2010 Jenny rated it liked it
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
Drew Jameson
Feb 08, 2010 Drew Jameson rated it really liked it
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
A nice collection of short stories. I love Yoon's writing style and some of the stories were very moving. His writing has a very sparse, austere, quiet quality about it. I find it beautiful, but reading the stories one after the other made this style less appealing. I should have spaced them out. My brain started to revolt: "here we go, another sad and lonely person." I don't mind a sad story, especially one as beautifully written as these, but I wish he'd written about something less dismal on ...more
missy jean
Feb 04, 2009 missy jean rated it it was amazing
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.
May 28, 2012 Alicia rated it really liked it
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.
Sarah Kuiken
Sep 10, 2015 Sarah Kuiken rated it liked it
These stories are beautifully written, with lovely lines that make Yoon's skill evident. And yet I felt a lack in the stories and the characters themselves. There are lots of passive, pining women and dismissive men, which gave many of the stories a sameness and started to irk me a bit. I think "Once the Shore" is the strongest story and some of the others had lovely moments but none of them really drew me in.
Apr 26, 2016 Jenny rated it liked it
3.5 really. There was one story that really got me in the feels, another couple that I connected with, and the rest were generally enjoyable. The writing tried a little too hard at times, so I was knocked out of the story to go back and make sense of the sentence, which is a frustrating experience as a reader. The characters were interesting and well-developed though not as inter-connected as I had expected, based on the blurb.
Mar 28, 2009 Christopher rated it it was amazing
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.
May 12, 2014 Melinda rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2013
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.
Kevin Revolinski
Feb 05, 2017 Kevin Revolinski rated it liked it
Pretty good short stories all set on a Korean island.
Dec 14, 2010 Emma rated it really liked it
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.
Aug 12, 2014 Hayun rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
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.
Jan 10, 2010 Mark rated it really liked it
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.

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.
Aug 01, 2010 Bob rated it it was ok
Fastidiously serious.
Jan 10, 2011 Ana rated it really liked it
Sweet, sorrowful, always poignant. I love collections of short stories that are impossible to read straight through. Each of these needs time to ponder.
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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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