Summary and book reviews of Run Me to Earth by Paul Yoon

Run Me to Earth

by Paul Yoon

Run Me to Earth by Paul Yoon X
Run Me to Earth by Paul Yoon
  • Critics' Opinion:

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     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Jan 2020, 272 pages
    Paperback:
    Jan 2021, 272 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Karen Lewis
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About this Book

Book Summary

From award-winning author Paul Yoon comes a beautiful, aching 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 and magically weaving together storylines laced with beauty and cruelty, Paul Yoon crafts a gorgeous story that is a breathtaking historical feat and a fierce study of the powers of hope, perseverance, and grace.

Chapter 1

At the farmhouse, the three friends asked each other where they went to at nights.

They had finished most of their duties for the day and were sitting down on the floor together in the corner of the long room that had, two decades ago, held dances and lavish parties but had now been converted into a ward.

"A ship," Prany said. "I go to a very large ship."

"Someplace where there is a working fireplace," Prany's younger sister, Noi, said, leaning back against the wall. "A very large fireplace." Noi had been disappointed to learn that all the fireplaces in this house had been found sealed up when the doctors first arrived.

Above them there was a gap in the ceiling where they could see two stars and the passing clouds. In front of them, at the end of the rows of cots, a woman tried to turn in her sleep, forgetting that her legs and her torso had been eaten alive when she stepped on an unexploded cluster bomb three days ago. Then the woman remembered what happened but she avoided ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Yoon's powerful storytelling unlocks deeply human themes: childhood interrupted by war, legacies of trauma that burden generations around the globe, cultural endurance, healing, loss, migration. This brilliant rendering of war's lasting impacts provides provocative topics for discussion and literary windows into an underreported segment of history...continued

Full Review (970 words).

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(Reviewed by Karen Lewis).

Media Reviews

New York Times
Throughout the novel, beauty and violence coexist in a universe that seems by turns cruel and wondrous...Yoon has stitched an intense meditation on the devastating nature of war and displacement.

Washington Post
Though presented as a novel, Run Me to Earth is a tightly integrated collection of six masterfully written stories...Individually, the chapters exercise hypnotic intensity, but the overall effect is even more profound. With his panoramic vision of the displacements of war, Yoon reminds us of the people never considered or accounted for in the halls of power.

Publishers Weekly
[A] sparely written gem...Yoon masterfully weaves their divergent story lines, unveiling the different trajectories of their lives...a finely wrought tale about courage and endurance.

Booklist (starred review)
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.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Yoon's imaginative prose and affection for his characters make the story larger than a look at the ways people survive...Another masterpiece in miniature about the unpredictable directions a life can take.

Library Journal (starred review)
Essential reading as Americans continue to grapple with our involvement in Asia and for anyone interested in top-drawer literature.

Author Blurb Miriam Toews, author of Women Talking
If you truly believe in the transformative power of literature then you must read this book. Run Me to Earth is a genuine masterpiece; fierce, tender, wise, earth-shattering, pulsating with love and hope.

Author Blurb Hernan Diaz, author of In the Distance, finalist for the Pulitzer Prize
With Run Me to Earth, Paul Yoon proves, yet again, that he is a master at finding depth of emotion in formal restraint and discovering the timeless core in the most urgent issues of our day. This is one of those rare novels that stays with us to become, over the years, a standard with which we measure other books.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

Hidden Dangers: War's Legacy of Unexploded Ordnance

Landmine in Iraq Author Paul Yoon's novel Run Me to Earth describes Laos as a beautiful landscape marked forever with unexploded ordnance (UXO) left in the wake of war from 1964 to 1973. Concealed explosives impact every character in the novel. The legacy of landmines and other unexploded munitions endures in the 21st century, not just in Laos but worldwide. Victims injured or killed by these weapons are often children at play or civilians and farmers living in rural areas that have not been cleared. It's estimated that 30% of the 250,000 cluster bombs dropped in Laos haven't yet exploded, and it's been almost 50 years since war ended there.

UXO affects more than 50 countries including Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, El Salvador, Colombia, Myanmar, Bosnia, ...

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