|Taking place in contemporary China along the Tumen River, which separates China and North Korea, The Ginseng Hunter addresses the plight of North Koreans, who have escaped their country by crossing the river. The story follows the daily life of a third generation ginseng hunter living alone in the hills above the river with little awareness of what is happening around him: the shadowy figures hiding in the fields at night, the bodies floating in the river. Monthly shopping trips to the nearest city of Yanji and visits to a brothel bring him in contact with a haunting young North Korean prostitute who had escaped her country. Through her vivid tales, he slowly becomes aware of the North Korean tragedy. As his compassion for her begins to intensify, he is forced to make the most difficult decision of his life. Spare and lyrical, The Ginseng Hunter is a startling portrait of life along the fragile border.
Jeff Talarigo won the Richard and Hinda Rosenthal Award given by the American Academy of Arts and Letters for his first novel The Pearl Diver.