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The Interpreter


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About the Author

Suki Kim was born and raised in South Korea and came to New York at the age of thirteen. Her nonfiction has appeared in The New York Review of Books and The New York Times. She is a graduate of Barnard College and lives in Manhattan.


Kim's spare and often terrifying first novel centers on New York City's Korean community. Rich in detail and grim in outlook, it introduces Suzy Park, a 29-year-old interpreter whose work involves her in a bevy of agencies throughout the five boroughs, from the Immigration and Naturalization Service to the criminal courts. Park is blas about her occupation until a routine translating job reveals that her greengrocer parents were not murdered by random violence, as the police had indicated, but instead had been shot by political enemies. These data provide fodder for Park, and the novel tracks her investigation into what really happened. As she delves, she discovers Korean gangs, gambling and prostitution rings, and an insular culture with its own rules and practices-all intriguing stuff. Nonetheless, readers will be disappointed. While time and place are well captured, the writing is so emotionally flat that one closes the book feeling aroused but ultimately unmoved. Recommended for large, urban collections only.-Eleanor J. Bader, Brooklyn, New York Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

Interpreter Suzy Park, the 29-year-old protagonist of this ambitious first novel, carries a lot of baggage: two rocky relationships with married men, estrangement from her sister, a series of unsatisfying jobs and the guilt of having cut ties with her parents before both were shot dead in an unsolved double murder. The question is not whether Park can survive the trauma, but whether this hybridrelationship/mystery/suspense/ Korean immigrant story can. The cross-pollination of forms creates depth, but it also creates weight. The dark, doomed-to-fail relationships Park engages in can be viewed as a function of her disconnection from life following the murder of her parents, but these relationships also deaden the tone of an already very serious novel, and the present tense narration has a dreamlike quality that compounds the problem. Luckily, as the novel progresses, Kim's talents become apparent: a good eye for detail, an excellent prose style and the ability to create compelling characters. When Park stumbles across a clue about her parents' five-year-old murder, the urgency of the mystery gradually overcomes the inertia of her relationships, and the search for her now missing sister contributes additional suspense. As Park's investigations lead closer to the truth, the novel's gloom becomes a luminous darkness, and the latter half has an almost hypnotic effect, marred only by a rushed ending. This is an intriguing, tortured portrait of a second-generation Korean-American by a promising young writer. (Feb.) Forecast: Few writers chronicle the Korean-American experience, and even fewer are as talented as Kim. This novel will be of special interest to young Korean-Americans, but should attract other readers, too. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

"Fascinating. . . a seductive allegory spun out in appropriately broken prose, that figures translation as detective work." --Los Angeles Times Book Review"[With] the small beautiful shiver of sadness. . . [Kim] speaks succinctly of memory, pain, isolation, and regret." --The New York Times Book Review"Deftly crafted, original, and fitted together by a complex, believable and interesting character, the enjoyment is intense... . .A stunning first novel. . .In these hauntingly enthralling pages, Kim expertly snaps her debut puzzle together." --Star Tribune (Minneapolis)"Powerful and memorable. . .engaging and haunting. . .It lingers in one's thoughts long past the last page." --Houston Chronicle"Bold and edgy, haunting and suspenseful. In The Interpreter Suki Kim fractures the image of the happy Asian immigrant and reassembles it shard by compelling shard." --Manil Suri, author of The Death of Vishnu

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