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A Person of Interest: A Novel by Susan Choi
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A Person of Interest: A Novel (2008)

by Susan Choi

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From the very first page of A Person of Interest, it is obvious that Susan Choi is an author who loves writing sentences, and also one who is exceedingly good at it. Nearly every sentence of this midsize novel is a miniature work of art, a winding path of coordinate and subordinate clauses, so masterfully paced and punctuated that the reader rarely, if ever, gets lost. Choi's vocabulary is precise and erudite, and her observations entertaining and psychologically acute. The artistry simply spills over every paragraph of every page.

Now, I am a reader who loves reading good sentences, and this made the book a joy for me to read. Furthermore, I am a reader who likes stories about academics. (What can I say, it's a soft spot. As an academic myself, there's a certain thrill of escapism I get from such fictions; this, no doubt, was a big part of why I fell in love with White Noise, and On Beauty, and Stoner, for instance.) In addition, I have a soft spot for mysteries and crime fiction of whatever stripe. So, A Person of Interest, a beautifully written whodunnit starring an aging professor, should be shoo-in for me, right?

Somehow, no. Despite all its merits, the novel just didn't do it for me in the end. Though I was definitely hooked well through the first half of the book, I felt that Choi fumbled things in the second. The main problem was what I'd diagnose as a lack of vision: A Person of Interest just can't seem to decide what it wants itself to be, and thus ends up not having much of substance to say. Though it touches on themes of loss and memory and family and racism, none of these elements ever really come together in a meaningful way. The characters (and especially, the novel's protagonist) are well developed enough, but are not (ironically) particularly interesting, or sufficiently relatable. In other respects, the novel seems like it just wants to be a straightforward mystery; but as a mystery, it is generally limp: predictable, and when not predictable, outlandish.

So, in the end, I feel strangely split between deeply enjoying the book as a piece of writing on the one hand, and feeling deeply disappointed by the book as a piece of fiction on the other. I will definitely be seeking out Choi's other work in the future, but I do not think I will ever return to A Person of Interest, and I will be hoping that her other books not fall prey to the same problems. ( )
  williecostello | Jan 1, 2014 |
so far really really good. i love susan choi, it turns out. ( )
  anderlawlor | Apr 9, 2013 |
picked up at the farmington public library; really good so far. ( )
  Lacy.Simons | Apr 3, 2013 |
The author was recommended by/a friend of a wonderful college professor from Dublin.

reminded me of Love In the Time of Cholera in its long passages of scenery description and grace notes of inconsequentialities. a story of a man's isolation and ruptured american dream but the main plot was a bit sensational, although reflective of the news stories of campus disruptions. he looks back on a life where he missed all these opportunities with people significant to him. ( )
  EhEh | Apr 3, 2013 |
  asianamlitfans | Nov 25, 2011 |
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Erst durch den Anschlag wurde Lee bewusst, wie gross seine Abneigung Hendley gegenüber gewesen war: ein tief verborgener, grauenhafter Gedankengang, der binnen Sekunden durch die Gewalt der Explosion freigelegt wurde.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0670018465, Hardcover)

Lee is a math professor at a second-tier university in the Midwest, and when a mail bomb goes off in the office of the star computer scientist next door, Lee is slow to realize that students an colleagues have begun to suspect that hes the Brain Bomber, an elusive terrorist whose primarily targets appear to be academic hotshots.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:43:47 -0400)

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"In her gripping new novel, Susan Choi mines the psychology and life of an innocent man suspected of a terrorist's crimes. A thrilling and emotionally profound tour de force from a Pulitzer Prize finalist, a person of interest grapples with the undermining power of suspicion and the toll of regret." "Professor Lee, an Asian-born mathematician nearing retirement age, would seem the last person likely to attract the attention of FBI agents. Yet after a popular young colleague becomes the latest victim of a technology-hating psychopath nicknamed the Brain Bomber, Lee's detached response and persistent socially maladroit behavior lead the FBI, the national news media, and even his own neighbors to regard him with damning suspicion." "Amid campus-wide grief over the murder, Lee receives a cryptic letter from a figure out of his past and becomes certain an old nemesis is now seeking revenge. The letter unearths a lifetime of Lee's shortcomings - toward his dead wife, his estranged only daughter, and a long-denied son. Caught between his guilty recollections and the merciless scrutiny of the murder investigation, determined to face his tormentor and exonerate himself, Lee sets off on a journey that will bring him face-to-face with his past, and that might even provide him a slender but real chance for redemption."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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