Friday, February 02, 2018

Suki Kim - The Interpreter

Publisher: Farar, Straus and Giroux
Author: Suki Kim
Title: The Interpreter

Who are Interpreters? Those who convey the meaning of what is said in one language in another? Or those who interpret one way of life to another?

Suzy Park makes a living as an interpreter.  Her job is to translate the questions that the lawyer asks Korean people who are not conversant in English and also interpret their replies.  Interpreting comes naturally to her.  She spent her life doing it.  Her parents could speak only Korean and she and her older sister Grace habitually translated to and fro for them.

Until she left home, kicked out by her father when he found out that she was sleeping with a married man.  Some years after this, her father and mother were killed in their store, shot through the heart. Suzy goes into a tailspin.  She is heartbroken that she never got a chance to make up with her parents. What's more, her sister Grace has cut off all ties with her. 

She flounders through life until one day she chances upon a man who mentions her parents during his deposition. There is more to the murder of her parents than meets the eye. Only a person who knows the nuances of the way a Korean thinks can solve this tangled mess. In the process we get to see the messy underbelly of illegal immigrants, caught in a corner, working hard but never really making it. Some fall into depression and some turn to unsavory acts to survive.

While the first generation of immigrants is trying to make ends meet and survive in a country where everything is alien to them, the children have a task of their own.  Part of them wants to blend in to the American culture, part of them wants to stay true to their own culture. They are forever at odds with their own selves.

How fast you go though a novel depends on how interesting you find it. I was barely able to put down the book. (My kindle actually.) I am still a little panda-eyed from having stayed up to finish the book.
The book starts slow and you wonder why the protagonist, Suzy, is so full of angst.  Soon we are in thick of things. 

Even though the book is about murder and the mystery surrounding it, it cannot be called a thriller.
It can be called a noir psychological murder mystery which has to be solved, not so much by chasing after things, as by interpreting the events that have taken place in the past.

The interpreter, however, is the shadow. The key is to be invisible. She is the only one in the room who hears the truth, a keeper of secrets.



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