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The Interpreter by Suki Kim

The Interpreter (original 2003; edition 2003)

by Suki Kim (Author)

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134689,677 (3.22)9
Title:The Interpreter
Authors:Suki Kim (Author)
Info:Farrar, Straus and Giroux (2003), Edition: 1, 304 pages
Collections:Your library

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The Interpreter by Suki Kim (2003)

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    The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami (booklove2)
    booklove2: Both books involve a displaced from the world character searching for clues to solve mysteries.

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The Interpreter is an ambitious novel by Suki Kim, a mystery about family, immigration, and alienation. Suzy Park is a young woman about to turn thirty who is haunted by the death of her parents. They were murdered five years earlier and their murder was never solved. The first half of the novel is languorous and depressive, filled with the ennui that holds Suzy in a kind of stasis, forever in relationships with men who are married and who will never place her first, drifting from job to job, never finishing her degree after quitting in her final semester. She spends a lot of her time sleeping and walking around New York City, her mind unspooling the past.

She is estranged from her only living relative, her sister Grace. She is filled with guilt that she disappointed her parents who disowned her and never made an effort to heal that breach before they died. The police finally have a clue and want her to come in and answer questions but she has no answers for them.

The pace quickens about midway through the book when by coincidence, a translating job for a deposition involves someone who worked for her parents. When the lawyer repeats questions, she questions him about her parents and discovers they were disliked in the community. It does not surprise her. Should she feel shame that she thinks that if people wanted them dead, it was probably their doing? Where is her sister?

There are many fascinating ideas in The Interpreter, but it is such hard work to get to them. The story is slow, it moves forward as in a fugue, just like Suzy. It is so foggy at the beginning that I had to force myself to keep reading even though Kim has interesting things to say about immigration and belonging. Suzy is trapped, feeling neither American nor Korean, “stuck in a vacuum where neither culture moved nor owned her.” This is far more interesting than the mystery which Suzy pursues haphazardly. There is no logic in her search, just glimmers of memory that propel her to question different people.

She learns her parents were not what she thought they were. She learns her sister was a better sister than she ever imagined her to be. The pace picks up toward the end and then races to a conclusion, perhaps faster than it should. The mystery is “solved” but what about Suzy and Grace? The ending is slightly ambiguous, as it should be. The entire book is about ambiguity in memory, in identity, in everything.

http://tonstantweaderreviews.wordpress.com/2016/12/04/the-interpreter-by-suki-ki... ( )
  Tonstant.Weader | Dec 4, 2016 |
I had a hard time getting into this story about a nearly-30 Korean-American interpreter. Characters were introduced without context, and I struggled to get into the heroine's heart and mind. But I am so glad I stuck with it!

This is the story of Suzy Park, a "generation 1.5" American; her family emigrated from Korea when she was a small child. She feels neither Korean nor American, her family moves a lot, she is rootless. Yet, this is a story of belonging to a community, and loyalty to that community.

Suzy parents were murdered five years ago, and she is estranged from her only sister, Grace. A chance encounter on a interpreting job causes Suzy to wonder what really happened to her parents, and why their murder remains unsolved. As she searches for answers, her story, her motivations, her struggles become clearer.

The writing is beautiful and the author brings the reader deep into Korean immigrant society in a way that opened my eyes to the life of immigrants, including the many "illegals" who have no legal status. ( )
  LynnB | Apr 27, 2016 |
Finished in the last hours of 2015.
I liked the book. Unusual and interesting. It gives an interesting view into the community of (illegal) immigrants. Who live in the US but still carry the heavy weight of the culture of their homeland, worsened by the fact that they hardly speak any English. ( )
  BoekenTrol71 | Dec 31, 2015 |
The synopsis of a Korean American woman who accidentally stumbles on the mystery of her parents murder five years ago really does not accurately describe The Interpreter. Ironic in a way, because the novel is all about how expectations can be fraught with mistakes and there are things whose meaning are always out of comprehension's grasp.

The good is that Suki Kim has wonderful scenes and turns of phrases. There's a melancholy tone throughout that aches and you really do get into the skin and sadness that inhabits Suzy Park. The scene of the last deposition is really the emotional payoff of the novel, with Suzy as the witness but finally understanding the interplay of what goes on. It is the perfect blend of emotion, symbolism and character development.

The bad is that it drags. The more compelling story of how Suzy deals with her troubled relationships regarding her parents and especially he sister are often overshadowed by retreading of her romances with older, married men. In fact, it takes more than half the novel for Suzy to actually even begin to examine the evidence that her parents' murder was more than it seemed, opting instead to meander through Suzy's romantic complications and hang ups. Meanwhile, the actual plot of the whodunnit is sparse, padded out and largely held up by the uncommunicative nature of the participants.

The Interpreter at its most effective is a study of culture and loneliness seen through the fractured set up of a person who was orphaned literally and figuratively by her family's behavior. The plot is more a frame that allows Kim to segue from one scene to the other, and the best parts come as observations rather than a culmination of the other elements. Best read in moody introspective moments, but people who want tightly paced stories with proactive motion should find something else. ( )
2 vote gaisce | Sep 24, 2013 |
I'm choosy about what I read, so I'm rarely disappointed by content or writing style, because I skim a bit in the middle of books that have interesting plots when I'm not familiar with the author. In the case of The Interpreter, I was intrigued by the plot of a Korean-American interpreter in her late-20s who gradually learns disturbing truths about her parents, small grocery owners in NYC who were murdered 5 years earlier. The prose, when I skimmed, seem succinct and eloquent. I wanted to read and enjoy this book. And I did. Eventually.

My disappointment in this book is that it could have been better. It took forever to get to anything resembling tension or action or intrigue. Except for a few little hints here and there, the first half of the book meanders around Suzy, the protagonist's personal life. And while the background is important as the layers of her early years and teens are peeled back, there was little to involve me emotionally until layers down deep are exposed and the book takes off in the second half, while maintaining its slow, meandering pace.

I imagine, given the author is Korean and moved to NYC when she was 13, that the book accurately portrays Korean immigrants and the Korean culture in NYC neighborhoods. It's an interesting peek into that community. I can't say that another reader won't be hooked from the start, but I think it takes some patience. So I won't heartily endorse it, nor will I tell you to forget it. I liked it. I just wish I could've liked it more. Maybe Suki Kim's next book will be more to my liking. ( )
  ShellyS | Aug 13, 2009 |
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Cigarettte at 9 a.m. is a sure sign of desperation.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0312422245, Paperback)

Suzy Park is a twenty-nine-year-old Korean American interpreter for the New York City court system who makes a startling and ominous discovery about her family history that will send her on a chilling quest. Five years prior, her parents--hardworking greengrocers who forfeited personal happiness for their children's gain--were brutally murdered in an apparent robbery of their store. But the glint of a new lead entices Suzy into the dangerous Korean underworld, and ultimately reveals the mystery of her parents’ homicide.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:44 -0400)

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