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O Beautiful

A Novel

Jung Yun

St. Martin's Press

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ISBN10: 125027432X
ISBN13: 9781250274328


320 Pages



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Elinor Hanson, a forty-something former model, is struggling to reinvent herself as a freelance writer when she receives an unexpected assignment. Her mentor from grad school offers her a chance to write for a prestigious magazine about the Bakken oil boom in North Dakota. Elinor grew up near the Bakken, raised by an overbearing father and a distant Korean mother who met and married when he was stationed overseas. After decades away from home, Elinor returns to a landscape she hardly recognizes, overrun by tens of thousands of newcomers.

Surrounded by roughnecks seeking their fortunes in oil and long-time residents worried about their changing community, Elinor experiences a profound sense of alienation and grief. She rages at the unrelenting male gaze, the locals who still see her as a foreigner, and the memories of her family’s estrangement after her mother decided to escape her unhappy marriage, leaving Elinor and her sister behind. The longer she pursues this potentially career-altering assignment, the more her past intertwines with the story she’s trying to tell, revealing disturbing new realities that will forever change her and the way she looks at the world.

With spare and graceful prose, Jung Yun's O Beautiful presents an immersive portrait of a community rife with tensions and competing interests, and one woman’s attempts to reconcile her anger with her love of a beautiful, but troubled land.


Praise for O Beautiful

"O Beautiful is both an intimate look at one life and a fearless exploration of the biggest issues of our time, from capitalism to environmental degradation, white supremacy to sex and power. With a shrewd eye and sharp sense of humor, Yun finds in the familiar tale of one woman’s return to her small town roots a story as big as the nation itself."—Rumaan Alam, The New York Times bestselling author of Leave the World Behind

"A wondrous, compelling, and insightful portrait of a North Dakota town as it struggles through a present-day oil boom. We may tire of hearing we live in an America of complicated times, but Jung Yun’s grand novel has something special and powerful to add, something that splendidly rises above the din. Her novel is a grand and stunning piece of work, at times humorous, sad, and breathtaking.”—Edward P. Jones, Pulitzer-Prize winning author of The Known World

“No one laces a scene with menace or fits more emotional range onto the page than Jung Yun. While serving as a snapshot of our contemporary moment, O Beautiful opens us up to the expanse of a woman's life while walking us through the fast-moving and deeply devastating days of a community's unwinding. With her dangerous yet graceful new novel, Jung Yun proves herself to be a writer who can rip out your broken heart and then repair it before your eyes.”—Wiley Cash, The New York Times bestselling author of The Last Ballad and A Land More Kind Than Home

“Jung Yun’s powerful new novel O Beautiful asks provoking questions as it interrogates the meaning and burden of beauty, from individual to nation. The choices that women make—or have made for them—are a treacherous territory of decisions concerning power and privilege. O Beautiful will make you think and see anew the strangeness and complexity of race, class, and gender in this page-turning, tender novel that journeys into the heart of America.”—Krys Lee, author of How I Became a North Korean

Reviews from Goodreads

About the author

Jung Yun

Jung Yun was born in Seoul, South Korea and grew up in Fargo, North Dakota. Her debut novel, Shelter was long-listed for the Center for Fiction’s First Novel Prize, a finalist for the Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Award, and a semi-finalist for Good Reads’ Best Fiction Book of 2016. A 2018 MacDowell fellow, her work has appeared in The Atlantic, The Washington Post,Tin House, and others. She lives in Baltimore, and serves as an assistant professor at the George Washington University.

Greg Dohler

Jung Yun

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