From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. After fictionalizing elements of the Patty Hearst kidnapping for her second novel (the 2004 Pulitzer finalist American Woman
), Choi combines elements of the Wen Ho Lee accusations and the Unabomber case to create a haunting meditation on the myriad forms of alienation. The suggestively named Lee, as he's called throughout, is a solitary Chinese émigré math professor at the end of an undistinguished Midwestern university career. He remains bitter after two very different failed marriages, despite his love for Esther, his globe-trotting grown daughter from the first marriage. As the book opens, Lee's flamboyant, futurist colleague in the next-door office, Hendley, is gravely wounded when Hendley opens a package that violently explodes. Two pages later, a jealous, resentful Lee felt himself briefly thinking Oh, good
. As a did-he or didn't-he investigation concerning Lee, the novel's person of interest, unfolds, Lee's carefully ordered existence unravels, and chunks of his painful past are forced into the light. While a cagily sympathetic FBI man named Jim Morrison and Lee's former colleague Fasano (who links the bombings to several other technologists) play well-turned supporting roles, Choi's reflections from Lee's gruffly brittle point of view are as intricate and penetrating as the shifting intrigue surrounding the bomb. The result is a magisterial meditation on appearance and misunderstanding as it plays out for Lee as spouse, colleague, exile and citizen. (Feb.)
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Susan Choi’s American Woman
(**** Nov/Dec 2003), a Pulitzer Prize finalist, fictionalized the abduction of Patty Hearst; here, she successfully tackles terrorism in an alienated America. Praised by the New York Times Book Review
as “combining the unhurried pleasures of certain classics with the jittery tensions of more recent fiction,” A Person of Interest
is more notable for its acute psychological insight and focus on one man’s discovery of himself than for its whodunit elements. A few reviewers faulted the flashbacks and ending and thought the novel too ambitious for its central character, but the majority commended Choi’s piercing exploration of how terrorism leads both to alienation and self-knowledge.Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.