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Winner of the Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Fiction. Judge: Paul Yoon.
In these inventive short stories, characters must navigate an impossible world: America as we know it. Two estranged brothers on a road trip attempt to reconcile but end up at a Revolutionary War reenactment camp; a young woman moves in with her boyfriend and discovers an eerily personalized seduction manual on his bookshelf; a middle-aged Korean-American father attends college courses and is either blessed or haunted by the presence of Edward Moon, an eccentric billionaire who also happens to be “the most successful Korean in America.”
Playfully engaging with genres like science fiction, the fairy tale, and the Gothic tale, the interconnected short stories of Impossible Children pit tiny heroes against tiny villains; the result is a stunning mapping of geography, heritage, immigration, freedom, and the mysterious forces behind epic ruins and epic successes.
Praise for Impossible Children
“The author has a playful imagination, which he exhibits to fabulist effect in these stories that showcase his original takes on Korean immigrant assimilation. This is a sly, entertaining debut.”
Touching upon diverse genres including science fiction, the fairy tale, and the Gothic tale, the interconnected short stories comprising “Impossible Children” are impressively and deftly crafted literary gems. The collective result is compilation of stories that are unreservedly endorsed and wholeheartedly recommended for personal reading lists, as well as both community and academic library Contemporary Literary Fiction collections.
—Midwest Book Review
“Robert Yune’s magnificent and richly assured debut, Impossible Children, takes us across the United States, from New Jersey to Michigan to Alaska, portraying the lives of the itinerant, the wanderers, and the lost. The stories—through a fully realized community—embody and evoke generations, history, and the history of war and migration. This is a collection that is both precise—in language, in imagery and tone, revealing key moments in a life—and vast in geography, events, and the heart.”
—Paul Yoon, from the Introduction
“Robert Yune’s collage of stories is a raucous and dangerous carnival, a funhouse of mirrors that reflects American life back to us as a Korean-American immigrant experience. Through life-altering accidents, tense road trips with estranged siblings, torment via karoake, weaponized proverbs, and sinister billionare CEOs, Yune explores and transforms the familiar into the surreal, calls upon us to question our notions of family, success, and belonging. These are wise, inventive, culture-shocking stories.”
—Bonnie Jo Campbell, author of American Salvage and Mothers, Tell Your Daughters
“As hard as Robert Yune’s characters try to escape their Korean heritage and disappear into a rootless America, they can’t run from blood. As one laments, ‘Sooner or later, everything returns,’ yet there seems no way to reassemble the once-missing pieces and become whole again. With a clear-eyed grace, Impossible Children chronicles a generation struggling to bear the weight of their inheritance.”
—Stewart O’Nan, author of Snow Angels, A Prayer for the Dying, and Last Night at the Lobster
“The characters at the heart of Robert Yune’s vibrant debut story collection, Impossible Children, are treated with such warmth, such sincerity, that the reader is genuinely engrossed by every twist and turn of their extraordinary lives—though especially by their dreams of America, both ones that come true and those they heartrendingly abandon. Written in voices that show a breadth of immigrant experience, this collection brings alive the all power and magic of the short story.”
—Jeffrey Condran, author of Prague Summer
“Elegant, absurd and unexpected, the stories in Robert Yune’s debut collection bring to mind the fictional worlds of Gary Shteyngart and Chang-rae Lee. Through these seventeen stories of misfits and lost souls searching for connection within their own families and the world, Yune creates a poignant and complex portrait of contemporary America. The stories capture the restlessness of characters set adrift by circumstance, by their own impulses, by the impossible demands they make on themselves and others. Yune is gifted at capturing the contradictions, imperfections and pleasures of family and home.”
—Geeta Kothari, author of I Brake for Moose and Other Stories