... riveting ... moves swiftly, with all the force of a finely honed thriller. As Elinor reckons with her past and the ways people have treated her, her mother and her sisters, she begins to examine the anger and love she feels for both her family and country. Open-ended and openhearted, O Beautiful may provide Elinor with more questions than answers, but it also instills in her a newfound determination to claim America as her own.
... unsettles the reader from the very first page ... enthralling and thought-provoking ... In less capable hands, a story about a writer searching for a story about Big Oil could feel cumbersome or dry, but Jung Yun uses Elinor’s return to a place that never truly felt like home to explore larger questions about power and belonging in modern America ... As Elinor finally claims her story, it feels as if Yun is speaking to the reader directly: Look at the power, misogyny, and white supremacy rooted throughout our country — at how inextricably tied they all are ... Sometimes, Yun has a narrative tic of retelling what is already known from the details...But who can fault Yun for wanting to make clear the ways in which women live under constant threat, with daily insults building up over time? Because no matter how much we are told, very little changes ... a quiet and dangerous story and an insightful meditation on how to make our lives here, amid the beauty and horror of our country. Though the novel opens with Elinor’s uncertainty, by the end, just as she is sure the assault on the plane happened, she understands too this assignment is hers to own. This is not a novel about a woman who learns the meaning of home, but rather, about one who realizes how much she already knows about who she is and where she belongs.
... poignant ... 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 ... 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.