Skinship by Yoon Choi [in Booklist]
The characters in Yoon Choi’s stories are caught in-between cultures, families, generations, even life and death. Especially stupendous are her Korean immigrant women-in-flux. In “The Church of Abundant Life,” a childless woman recalls how she met her husband through her English tutor in Korea and became half of a Pennsylvania convenience store-owning couple. In “First Language,” a woman travels to pick up her troubled son from Second Chance Ranch. In “Skinship,” a mother and her children leave Korea to escape her abusive husband, only to be reunited with him in a act of misdirected kindness.
Familial bonds are sharply interrogated in “Song and Song” as sisters lose their mother, in “The Loved Ones” as younger generations are about to lose their elders, and in “The Art of Losing” when a grandson is in the care of grandparents facing Alzheimer’s and atrial fibrillation. In other tales, friendship fails two third-graders who get lice, and gifted piano students meet again 22 years after parting.
Rare is the impeccable first collection, even if the writer’s already been anointed by Roxane Gay, who chose “The Art of Losing” for Best American Short Stories 2018. Multiple prestige outlets have previously published the Korean-born, Long Island-raised, Johns Hopkins/Stanford-educated Stegner Fellow, presciently aware that Choi’s debut would be a masterpiece.
Review: “Fiction,” Booklist, July 2021