Run Me to Earth by Paul Yoon [in Booklist]
The story begins and ends with Alisak, one of three inseparable Laotian orphans in 1969, who, in the final pages, will have become an almost-content Spanish shopowner on his way to a birthday celebration in 2018. Traversing countries and continents during a half-century, Paul Yoon’s (The Mountain, 2017) second novel unfolds decades of unrelenting loss and meaningless brutality, balanced – somehow – by exquisite kindness and unbreakable bonds.
In war-torn Laos, a country brutalized by more powerful nations, including the U.S., three children stay alive by working in a makeshift hospital doing whatever is necessary. For a while, Alisak and siblings Noi and Prany have the pretense of safety, barely enough food to keep living, and the protection of an idealistic doctor, Vang. Surrounded as they are by fields of unexploded cluster bombs, the threat of annihilation remains constant. When evacuation is inevitably initiated, the trio and Vang are scattered in the chaos, setting in motion sundered journeys across oceans, with survival motivated by a searing yearning for, if not reunion, then at least some semblance of understanding.
Yoon again exemplifies his unparalleled ability to create a quietly spectacular narrative that reveals the unfathomable worst and unwavering best of humanity; the result here provides mesmerizing gratification.