Yona puts together "disaster tours" for Jungle, creating vacations to devastated sites around the world. After she becomes the target of sexual harassment at work Jungle, rather than fire the offender, offers her, as compensation, paid time off to go on a disaster tour of her own. Yona agrees, and heads to Mui, an island that has supposedly been devastated by a sinkhole. But when she arrives she realizes the sinkhole isn't much to look at and the resort owner, with Jungle, is determined to create another catastrophe to bring back tourists. Yona must decide whether company loyalty is more important than Mui, and its people, that she's grown to love. This compact, assured novel, with themes of authority and submission, incorporates elements of mystery and surrealism with a touch of humor thrown in. If your book club is looking for international literature, here is the perfect choice!
-Cindy— From Cindy's Recs
August 2020 Indie Next List
“This book is about every sort of disaster that can happen: ecological, economic, social, moral, and even the unexpected. When Yona, a designer of ‘disaster tours’ for a travel company, is forced to go on a business trip to a remote island, she gets caught up with making a disaster of her own. This book brilliantly peels back the layers of ecotourism, capitalism, and all the ways we are complicit in creating catastrophes. A shocking, thought-provoking book that’s also a great read.”
— Dan Schwartz, Changing Hands Bookstore & First Draft Book Bar, Phoenix, AZ
Welcome to the desert island of Mui, where a paid vacation to paradise is nothing short of a disaster in this "mordantly witty novel that] reads like a highly literary, ultra-incisive thriller (Refinery29).
Jungle is a cutting-edge travel agency specializing in tourism to destinations devastated by disaster and climate change. And until she found herself at the mercy of a predatory colleague, Yona was one of their top representatives. Now on the verge of losing her job, she's given a proposition: take a paid "vacation" to the desert island of Mui and pose as a tourist to assess the company's least profitable holiday.
When she uncovers a plan to fabricate an extravagant catastrophe, she must choose: prioritize the callous company to whom she's dedicated her life, or embrace a fresh start in a powerful new position? An eco-thriller with a fierce feminist sensibility, The Disaster Tourist introduces a fresh new voice to the United States that engages with the global dialogue around climate activism, dark tourism, and the #MeToo movement.
About the Author
YUN KO-EUN is the author of several novels and short story collections published in South Korea. She is a recipient of the Hankyoreh Literary Award, the Lee Hyo-seok Literary Award, and the Kim Yong-ik Literary Award. The Disaster Tourist is her second book to be published in English. She lives in Seoul, South Korea. LIZZIE BUEHLER studied comparative literature at Princeton University and holds an MFA in literary translation from the University of Iowa. Her writing and short translations appear in Asymptote, Azalea Magazine, Litro, The Massachusetts Review, and Translation Review.