O Beautiful

St. Martin’s. Nov. 2021. 320p. ISBN 9781250274328. $27.99. F
The second novel by Yun (author of the critically acclaimed Shelter) is a poignant work featuring 42-year-old Elinor Hanson, a former print catalogue model from New York who is now a journalist with a newly minted degree. Originally from North Dakota, Elinor grew up with a military career officer father and Korean-born mother who abandoned the family when Elinor was 12. Elinor now finds herself back in her home state, assigned to report on the recent oil boom. As she follows the leads of her reporting, Elinor uncovers deeper concerns, including contaminated water, unethical dealings regarding mineral rights, the abuse of women, and an unsolved murder. With a tenacity akin to Erin Brockovich’s, Elinor aims to root out a story that will be fit to print. Yun’s writing is filled with strong characterizations, drawing on her own upbringing in North Dakota, and she proves herself a laudable storyteller. Presenting Elinor as a woman on a journey of self-discovery and reinvention, the novel addresses key contemporary concerns, from race and gender to power and authority.
VERDICT While the conclusion could have been fleshed out more, this multilayered and suspenseful tale is filled with unexpected and satisfying twists. A definite page-turner offering much to contemplate.
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