The stories in Paul Yoon’s debut story collection are told with a placidity that belies their violence — reading The Mountain is like admiring a glowing sunset before realizing that what you’re really watching is a wildfire heading your way ... Yoon grasps the reader’s urge to root for heroism and survival, then slowly nudges us toward reality. All six stories in The Mountain play with this tension of how to describe loss and failure simply but without clichéd bluntness — his sentences read like Hemingway stripped of his machismo ... working at a smaller scale, Yoon sometimes has a more difficult time maintaining a balance between storytelling and atmospherics, leaning on a soft metaphor — a missed train stop, a drifting rowboat — when a firmer line would better highlight his characters’ crises. Even so, The Mountain is remarkable as it is, as close as the short story can get to poetry without losing its grip on plot. The people in its pages are struggling with the kind of crises that are hard to make concrete.
...a haunting world tour of the loss and alienation that war and its aftermath has brought us all over the last century. But a tour that allows the smallest nod, the narrowest glance, at hope. There are only six stories here, each of them stark and atmospheric, the sentences fragmented to reflect the shards left of the lives each tale gives us. But the length of these narratives, their breadth and scope, allow us to experience more fully the lives beyond these shards, the years that pass through them, the change in continents and generations and conflicts and recoveries that are experienced by each story’s protagonist ... if there’s a criticism of the book, it’s that Yoon’s sentences — those tough little fragments — sometimes build one on another until the stories begin to sound alike ... Another criticism might be the cryptic set of objects — and standard archetypes — Yoon seems to have no choice but to employ ... But these issues are forgivable, quibbles a critic feels compelled to register to make certain the appreciation of Yoon’s work hasn’t gone without scrutiny. Believe me: This is a genuine work of art, a shadowland of survivors that is tough and elegant and true. And beautiful.
The Mountain, is not what you’d call delightful — the stories are sober and the prose is quiet, yet in that is the howling of the human condition that makes the best short fiction stand out ... This is where much of the drama in these stories occurs: rippling, under the surface, in that quiet desperation for safety. While the stories are seemingly quiet, they are all set against the backdrop of violence, from World War II to present-day fights for independence and confusing acts of terrorism ... The stories in The Mountain are linked through key themes as well as a somewhat overemphasized use of shared images. The moon, a bicycle, a horse that is taken for a ghost or a living statue, company names with the word ;Sunshine' in them: For close readers, these shared images and character backgrounds may be a little on the nose, a little forced. This is a small grievance, though, in what is ultimately a fantastic collection.