Cover Image: O Beautiful

O Beautiful

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I was initially turned off by this book because every encounter Elinor Hansen has in the first 1/4 of the book with a man, that man is either checking her out, making lewd comments, or possibly molesting her.  I realize she is supposed to me a former model for catalogs, however this is not an accurate representation of me.  Perhaps one man would treat her like that but, really, all of them being sexist and disgusting seems completely irresponsible to pen them that way.  The book itself was slow going and touches upon many different issues.
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I started but I was unable to get into the story. I apologize that I was not able to finish. The subject unfortunately didn’t grab me. Great photo on the cover tho!
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I should begin by saying that I absolutely loved Jung Yun's book, Shelter. It was one of the top books I read that year. Naturally, I was very excited to read "O Beautiful". The way Jung Yun writes her characters is so beautiful, never black and white, only characters with both good and bad parts, balanced very well. I really enjoyed reading about Elinor's journey back to North Dakota, from the lens of the oil boom. Elinor's path through discovering violence against women, price gouging, land misuse, Native American reservations being exploited, all really spoke to me deeply. 

I personally was much more engaged with the story happening in the mid-west than New York. I wish this book didn't end where it does. I wish the book continues to tell the story of the women in the Dakotas. If the New York story line is removed and the Dakotas story is written out further to some more conclusion, this would have been a 5-star book for me. Otherwise, as it stands now, it is probably a 3.5 star book.
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O’Beautiful
Jung Yun

Comparing Jung Yuns newest release to her first release, SHELTER, would be like comparing still life paintings. Although similar, O’ BEAUTIFUL stands on its own. 

Yun writes with a diverse hand, an open mind but with an extreme amount of self-criticism. 

How does a writer write with self-criticism? Its simply in how the author treats the characters, their choices, and how the characters are self-reflecting during their character ARC. When we read a flawed character, we allow them to be human. I think this is why reading builds such great empathy. We read this imaginary story of someone or people who are going through something critical in their life, and we're watching them grow and become a better person (most times).

Outside of the criticism, I think the greatness of this book is a story of one's position in life. It talks about how each person has their own afflictions and setbacks. Each person has to overcome those things to find a life they're comfortable with. It talks about race, cultures, and hereditary based prejudices, beauty standards, money, the economy, being poor, and what each of those things actually means to your quality of life. 

 It also asks questions about Big Corporation's impact and influence on their environment. Meaning the community the business runs in and also its actual environment (Earth) (the Universe). 

One of my favorite quotes

“You make it so hard for the rest of us.”

 I know the quote cannot be understood without context. So you’ll just have to order the book to find out what it means. O’BEAUTIFUL is a great book, and I recommend it for those looking to explore real issues going on in the world, in the US, and around the corner

Four Stars

Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this advanced copy!
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A 30 something ex-model turned reporter is sent to North Dakota were shale mining has greatly impacted  the town. In fact, it’s not so little anymore. Rooms are scarce, women are scarce, and it seems the “all white middle class town“ Has quickly become gentrified. Elinor has been assigned the job of writing about the Bakken oil boom for a prestigious NY magazine. How does a small tightly knit town accept the influx of all these “outsiders“. Does the promise of incredible wealth apply to the whole community or just to  the company who purchased the rights to drill? This is a complicated story about the haves and the have not‘s, the complications of having a male dominated Community,  the sincere acceptance of those who “look different”. Beautifully written, this is the story of determination, commitment and heritage.
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Elinor is a 40+ former model who has come late to a writing career.  A break from  her Ex gives her the chance to head to North Dakota and the oil boom on assignment for a national magazine.  Elinor has no problem going from her glamorous NYC lifestyle to Avery, ND, because she spent many of her early years in the area.  But the North Dakota of her childhood is not the booming, male dominated  “roughneck” metropolis that becomes her home base while she interviews and observes the local residents, whose lives have not all changed for better, as well as those who have come to Avery seeking their fortunes.  The population has grown too fast for the services to keep up, and many end up sleeping in their cars, in spite of the big paychecks they’re  pulling in.  Elinor also has issues with her estranged older sister, who lives in the area, as well as her Ex, the publishing executive.  Although he’s back in New York, his presence is constant through phone and text.  Author Jun Yun creates a tension that is palpable.  When Elinor finds herself walking past groups of men or camped vehicles, I found myself holding my breath.  She explores the themes of racial and ethnic discrimination and misogyny in clear cut  situations, making it impossible to deny.  If I have one complaint with this book it’s the ending.  I wanted more.
Thank you to NetGalley to the opportunity to read an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.
#NetGalley.   #OBeautiful
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This is a wonderfully written novel. Although there is quite a lot going on in this novel, ranging from topical things that speak to the current moment in time and some truly personal, vulnerable writing, it never, ever feels preachy. This is because of how much effort the author put into building believable characters, its as if the author loves her characters(no matter how unpleasant they are). They all seem so, so real. However, I wish I could have given the novel all the stars. really. The problem was the ending. This could have been a truly extraordinary book except for the way it ended. Honestly, for a minute there I was trying to figure if my copy of the novel was missing the last quarter. That's how it ended, extremely abruptly, without drawing together all those promising lines of tension that the author so painstakingly drew from the start. Still, the writing is great and I'll always be on the lookout for new work from this author. They are one to watch.
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“O Beautiful”, opened my eyes to corruption, injustice, racial slandering,  pollution, traffic overcrowding, sexism, misogyny, environmental toxicity, Native American civil rights, noise, and the oil boom that turned the small quiet town of Bakken into total chaos…creating divided rumble and strife between the ‘insiders’ and ‘outsiders’. 
Character, Harry Bergum —(for example), considered the King of Avery, was the unofficial mayor. 
Bergum was the first local to truly make big money and oil —$28 million and counting— he did this long before anyone knew what fracking or horizontal drilling was.  Many locals felt that he not only brought jobs, but he also brought the oil trash and crime —and everything else that was ruining their town. 
So….
       …..setting these basic facts aside — for a moment —there is much more going on in “O Beautiful”….(several more poignant and complicated themes)….
But….the book is anything but dry. I took my time thinking about many issues brought up - but Jung Yun’s prose had so much experiential charm…that I was thoroughly enthralled.  Had a few fun chuckles too.

We meet Elinor Hanson (a staggering/captivating protagonist), who gives “O Beautiful”, the novels dazzling heartbeat. 
The opening scene is knockout hilarious—(a fabulous beginning teaser introducing readers to more serious issues which will float to the surface the further we get deeper into this story). 

Elinor Hanson was a tall half-Asian-half-white women.
She was forty-two years old, from New York….(grew up in North Dakota: in Markow, about ninety minutes from Avery).  
At the start …..
Elinor was sitting next to a stranger on the plane who kept generating a conversation with her - when she simply wanted to take Restoril and fall asleep. 
The man kept staring at her.
Then says:
     “You have some interesting tattoos. I don’t see a lot of Asian women with tattoos usually, not like that, at least”. 
The man on the plane kept on talking to Elinor. He told her that he was in finance. He kept pushing for conversation when Elinor was trying to politely tell him she wanted to sleep. 
     “I was only making conversation, you know. I don’t pick up random women on planes, if that’s what you’re thinking”. 
     “I didn’t think you were trying to pick—“
     “Yeah, well, don’t flatter yourself. You’re not my type”. 
His anger seemed disproportionate to what Elinor said, but she let it go. 
The plane lands….
        ……the drama continues and continues….taking new turns.

The imagery—the experience—of the oil patch town, with its donut shops, long lines everywhere to get into stores, the roughnecks, the fallout for the community, the repercussion from the explosive growth, …was so vivid to me — at times it felt like watching current event news right on from my own living room on the TV.  
And…..
       …..Its Elinor who gives this story personal intimacy.  
She was hired to write an article about the changes in North Dakota. 
Elinor actually grew up in this town. Her father was stationed in the Air Force Military.  Her mother was from Korea. 
The personal stories- background history about  Elinor’s parents, (Ed and Nami), Elinor’s own younger self, her education, her involvement with a professor, (who got her the assignment writing job), her insecurities, (feelings of being an outsider), her anger, being a woman, being Asian, being misunderstood….. > all add so much to this novel. 

When Elinor was in her late teens and twenties, men usually ‘assumed’ she was a model. She was! 
“By industry standards, she had a prettier- than-average face, but not a well-known one”. 
She had over fifteen years of steady catalog work and the occasional print ad. I found it insightful to learn - from Elinor - the differences of being the normal white model vs. the occasional exotic Asian model — 

INJUSTICE IS FRICKEN EVERYWHERE! 

Elinor hadn’t modeled in years, but she still had difficulty presenting herself as something other than what she ‘was’.  
She reinvented herself….from model to writer…..by writing non-fiction, for magazines. 

I enjoyed how Elinor’s voice became stronger throughout this novel.  When she felt rage, I felt rage right along with her.  
At some point - the article Elinor ends up writing was very different than the one it started out to be. 
She took control of ‘her’ project ….ruffled some feathers …(I felt she was even honoring her mother in doing so)….kicked some ass….
and inspired the heck out of me.

Great book…(not one to rush-read…but very powerful).
I’m a fan of Jung Yun 📚💕
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The struggles of Elinor Hanson will likely linger in your mind long after the book ends. Her quest to make sense  of beauty, deceit, toxic people, and toxic workplace environments touches on many hot button issues. That said, several plot lines go unresolved, leaving the reader wanting more. Thank you to NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review.
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Genre: Literary Fiction
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Pub. Date: November 9, 2021

Mini-Review

Jung Yun authored the critically acclaimed debut novel, “Shelter.” I was expecting to devour her second novel, which follows a biracial Korean-American female freelance journalist as she goes on assignment in her hometown. Yun’s prose is beautiful.  However, this character-driven novel is all over the place taking on many subplots.  I thought I would be reading a tale on the immigrant experience in a divided America. Yet, the emphasis is mainly on the Me Too Movement. The journalist was a model in her youth always admired for her beauty and not her brains. So, what the reader actually follows is a woman who realizes that she was once a gender stereotype for her looks and that there is much more to her than that. Keeping with the leading title, yes, our protagonist does feel like an outsider not belonging or being accepted in either the Asian or American world. Still, for this reviewer, the tale turned felt flat. I do think a good editor could have made a big difference.
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Elinor is journalist. She’s in her early 40’s and after years as a successful model she went back to school and earned a journalism degree. Her first high-profile, prestigious assignment is to do a piece on the oil boom in her home state of North Dakota not far from where she grew up. The area has seen explosive growth and change with the influx of obscene amounts of money from the oil companies. The fallout for the community is immense. Meanwhile, Elinor is dealing with serious personal issues that make getting a handle on the assignment difficult. 
.
As she investigates/researches the impact of the boom she finds the threads of many competing factors that are leading to the massive chaos in the area. It was all very engaging and my only real complaint about the book is that there was no resolution to all the issues. The last page had 4 or so paragraphs where Elinor finally gets a very rough, very vague outline in her head as to where the article is going. The book almost feels like lifting a rock and seeing all the bugs scatter. Then putting the rock back in place. End of story. 
.
Thanks to @netgalley and @stmartinpress for an advanced copy of this book! It will be released on 11/9/21.
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Murder and misogyny on the North Dakota oil patch, where men outnumber women 30:1 and they call them roughnecks for a reason. Enter into this environment a middle-aged model-turned-investigative reporter who is the product of a mixed Korean/White union and you have a very interesting story that is part thriller, part polemic, and part a product of our Me Too times.  "The irony of people trying to make their fortunes in oil after fighting a war that some think was caused by it," she says part way into the book. The reporter is trying to pick up the various threads, haven been given her assignment from her former J-school professor and former lover. As a freelance writer myself, getting someone else's notes and trying to make sense of a the story can be challenging. Add to this that the reporter grew up not too far away in an era before oil was found and the economy was transformed. The issues of sex, race, power and policing are all stirred into a novel that could be ripped from the current news in a very engaging and thoughtful narrative, so I highly recommend this book. .
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Another beautifully written engrossing novel by the author of Shelter.I was immediately drawn in to the story from the first scene when Elinor a former model a tall striking woman of mixed parentage is involved in a strained conversation with her seat mate.a male who seems to be hitting on her,I knew from those pages Elinor would be someone that would keep me involved turning the pages.Her story also involves the story of America today topics such as fracking there are so many layers to this novel willbe highly recommending.#netgalley#st.martins press
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I'm a huge fan of Jun Yun's debut novel, "Shelter", so I was very excited to read her upcoming novel, "O Beautiful" very much. This book has a great first chapter, but I felt like the plot was trying to do too many things. Is this a novel about sexual abuse? Or is it about racism? Or is it about an unsolved disappearance? Or is it about a traumatic childhood? Well it's trying to be all these important topics at once, which makes it confusing to keep up. The tone is all over the place. I wasn't sure what the author's overall message was trying to convey. Also, I found it difficult to like the protagonist, Elinor. I felt some sympathy for her, but really I was mostly just annoyed by her. When she keeps commenting about how every dirty old man stares at her; well it become old extremely fast. I understood what the author was trying to say, but it was too repetitive. The writing was beautiful, but this book read long. Very draggy. Some scenes felt so long. This is more a character-driven novel than anything. Also, the ending left a lot of an unanswered questions. I was hoping that all the storylines would tie and wrap up together, but they didn't. It's a mixed bag for me.

Thank you, Netgalley and St. Martin's Press for the digital ARC.
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O, Beautiful takes us into the mind of Elinor Hansen, a beautiful journalist seeking change in her own life. Elinor is an intelligent women with a chip on her shoulder from years of being a women in a man’s world. Abused, belittled, catcalled, and done with it all, but not sure what to do about it, she returns to North Dakota, where she grew up, to report on a booming oil town. The novel takes us through her pain, anger, and growth as she uncovers and discovers a world that’s been there all along but never explored. This is definitely her story. It is a character driven, heavily insightful book.

The opening scene of this novel was so familiar, it was perfect. I felt like I had been in the exact situation in my life, I bet most women would relate. Throughout the book, I was connected with her anger at the way the world “just is”.  

I really enjoyed this book and am giving it 5 stars. The prose is excellent! However, I don’t think it’s one for everyone. It’s slow-paced and there is a lot going on. Elinor is in a way coming to terms with how she has been abused, the trauma of her childhood, and the dissonance of being a independent modern female yet living with the experiences of sexism and misogyny. I found her deep and relatable, despite her cynicism and anger, or maybe because of it.  This is a great piece of literature.
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I wanted so badly to love this book, but unfortunately it just wasn't for me. There was so much going on: racism, sexism, environmental issues, rural issues. There were so many different topics that it felt like the author didn't address them beyond the surface. I wanted to know more! The story idea and general plot were fascinating, but it just didn't hold my interest.
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O Beautiful describes that landscape in the North Dakota that Elinor Hanson grew up in. She grew up as the daughter of a Korean woman and a military man. He wanted to marry a woman from Korea that would be docile and take care of him and the children that they would have. She wanted to marry this military man as her ticket to move to America. Her Mother was not happy as the individuals in the town, did not accept this foreigner. Her husband would tell her that it was her fault and she needed to blend in. Elinor's mother finally got fed up and deserted them leaving her husband to raise two girls. He expected the her older sister to take on the role of mother including taking care of Elinor and cooking for the family. The girls had grown up very close but the relationship changed as her older sister took on the role of taking care of her Her sister gave up her dreams of higher education and moving from North Dakota and got married and had kids. Elinor who was a beautiful woman, moved to New York City and became a successful model. As her modeling career was winding down in her 40's, she went to school to become a writer. A year after her graduation, her mentor contacted her with a great opportunity to write a for a prestigious magazine about the Bakken oil boom in North Dakota. Richard had been researching the area and scheduled interviews with a number of people but he was scheduled for surgery so he needed Elinor to take over the assignment. She arrives in North Dakota and discovers that much has changed. This oil boom has turned the quiet town of Bakken into a horrible rough town that is over run with outsiders. The vast majority are men. All hotels are booked solid and people are living in their cars, RV's vans and anywhere that they can. Some of the oil companies put their employees up in the various man camps that have sprung however, the camps are not safe for woman. The towns are so full of tension. The townspeople hate the people that have come to town especially the non-white people. There is a strong resentment of anyone with any color of skin other than white. The men in the town are particularly verbally and physically abusive to woman. In performing the interviews that had been set up for her, she really sees the ugly side of this oil boom. One woman that she interviewed had to live with constant noise as her husband signed over their mineral rights on his deathbed as way for her to have income. The fracking on her land, left them unable to farm the land. In addition, the oil rigs operated 24 hours a day. The disruption in the land made her unable to even enjoy being outside in her yard. She interviewed the Chief of the Indian Reservation and he told her how wonderful it was to get so much money from the oil to help the tribe. However, she learned from other woman on the reservation that most of the Indians were not happy and were not seeing the cash inflow. The Chief was corrupt and also owned an oil company that he was making money from. However, while they were talking he received a message that one of his oil rigs has just blown up. One thing that she was seeing that bothered her were the number of people flying American flags upside down. 
After talking to a number of people she felt that her focus needed to be on how this oil boom was affecting the woman of the town. A lot of fighting and other drama occurred in this overcrowded town that was filled with tension, It was an interesting book that really displayed the human drama in the fight for riches over the actual beauty in the natural beauty in the western landscape.
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I really loved the idea of this book, and I felt that unfortunately, the idea of this book felt short after reading it. There was a lot of loose ends that needed closing, but the story was so intriguing and had an extremely solid plot.  The ideas of this community struggle as a forefront of the plot, about a town that she grew up in, seemed like such an interesting viewpoint. Especially told from an Asian-American women's perspective, in this small town in North Dakota. A really beautiful set-up. However, I was left wanting more from the story, more deep dives into the world that it was supposedly encompassing. There was a lot going on in this book, and I think that it has excellent potential. There will definitely be people who love this book-- clearly, from the reviews already, but it wasn't necessarily what I wanted it to be. Still, I think the writing was beautiful, it had great start-ups, but just didn't give me the same feeling that I had wanted and I felt a bit disappointed by the end of it. I still enjoyed it, and gave it a 3/5 stars! Thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for sending me a copy of this one!
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This is a pretty unique story, and a good one. It's not a simple tale, and that's one of the things that makes it interesting. It's also touches on a number of topics in some way. This may not be for everyone, but I think a lot of literary fiction fans will like this one.

Thanks very much for the ARC for review!!
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I thought I would really like this book because I’m a female working in the oil and gas industry, but it fell short for me. There were many important social issues addressed within the story (maybe too many) and it was well written, but the ending seemed very abrupt and left a lot of loose ends.
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