In “Snow Hunters,’’ Paul Yoon’s much-awaited first novel, a young man named Yohan emigrates from Korea to an unnamed port town in Brazil. He has just been put through the emotional wringer, having served time in a prison camp as a POW at the tail end of the Korean War. We first meet him in the winter of 1954, at 25, as he arrives in Brazil on a cargo ship during a rainfall, “dressed in an old gray suit that was too large for him . . . They were not his clothes.”
Over the course of the novel, Yohan experiences extreme amounts of kindness. His suit was gifted to him by an American nurse at the prison camp before he parted. Upon arrival in Brazil, a sailor hands him a blue umbrella in the rain, a woman’s umbrella. Next, Yohan is taken in by an old Japanese tailor named Kiyoshi and provided with room and board. The two get along and begin to live out a quiet, almost monk-like existence together.