From award-winning author Paul Yoon comes a “spellbinding” (The Washington Post) novel about three kids orphaned in 1960s Laos—and how their destinies are entwined across decades, anointed by Hernan Diaz as “one of those rare novels that stays with us to become a standard with which we measure other books.”
Alisak, Prany, and Noi—three orphans united by devastating loss—must do what is necessary to survive the perilous landscape of 1960s Laos. When they take shelter in a bombed out field hospital, they meet Vang, a doctor dedicated to helping the wounded at all costs. Soon the teens are serving as motorcycle couriers, delicately navigating their bikes across the fields filled with unexploded bombs, beneath the indiscriminate barrage from the sky.
In a world where the landscape and the roads have turned into an ocean of bombs, we follow their grueling days of rescuing civilians and searching for medical supplies, until Vang secures their evacuation on the last helicopters leaving the country. It’s a move with irrevocable consequences—and sets them on disparate and treacherous paths across the world.
Spanning decades, this “richly layered” (The New York Times Book Review, Editors’ Choice) book weaves together storylines laced with beauty and cruelty. Paul Yoon’s “greatest skill lies in crafting subtle moments that underline the strange and specific sadness inherent to trauma” (Time) and this book is a breathtaking historical feat and a fierce study of the powers of hope, perseverance, and grace.
Paul Yoon is the author of two story collections, Once the Shore, which was a New York Times Notable Book, and The Mountain, which was a NPR Best Book of the Year. His novel Snow Hunters won the Young Lions Fiction Award. A recipient of fellowships from the New York Public Library’s Cullman Center for Writers and Scholars and the National Endowment for the Arts, he lives in Sanford, Florida, with his wife, the fiction writer Laura van den Berg, and their dog, Oscar.
"Narrator Ramón de Ocampo's even tone is the perfect match for this quiet historical novel. In 1960s Laos, three teenagers orphaned by war find work at a nearby abandoned field hospital. A doctor there helps them to flee the country, but, separated during the escape, their lives spin out in vastly different directions. The story shifts through time, space, and point of view, but de Ocampo's steady narration never wavers. There's a matter-of-factness in his voice that acknowledges the horrors these characters live through without slipping into sensationalism. At its heart, this is an audiobook about the diaspora of war, and about the devastating, rippling, and occasionally redemptive consequences of seemingly minor decisions. De Ocampo's beautiful and brutal narration is as lush and mesmerizing as the prose itself."