Synopses & Reviews
From an acclaimed novelist, an emotionally complex and riveting story of suspicion, innocence, and regret.
When a mail bomb explodes in the campus office next door, Lee, an Asian American math professor at a second-tier university in the Midwest, comes under suspicion. The authorities believe he may be the infamous brain bomber, an elusive terrorist whose primary targets are prominent scientists and mathematicians.
In the midst of campus tumult and grief over the star computer scientist who was killed by the bomb, Lee receives a disturbing letter from a figure in his past. Certain he is being targeted for revenge, he begins confronting key events in his life. Misunderstood by the people around him, Lee is not conscious that his behavior has begun to heighten suspicion in the minds of his colleagues, students, and neighbors, leading the FBI to designate him a person of interest and pushing his life and reputation to the verge of ruin.
Intricately plotted and engrossing, A Person of Interest asks how far one man can run from his past, and explores the impact of scrutiny and suspicion in an age of terror. With its propulsive drive and vividly realized characters, Susan Choi's latest novel is as thrilling as it is lyrical, and confirms her place as one of the most important young novelists chronicling the American experience.
"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 migr 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." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"The ending, a redeeming one, is all action. That it is superbly told is no surprise. That its melodrama comes out as gravely real is due to Choi's profound rendering of her protagonist's estrangement in an estranged society, and even to the slow and hard-going detail with which she has established it." Boston Globe
"Choi's descriptive flair, the evocation of Lee's turmoil, and the reaction of colleagues and neighbors contribute to a different type of portraiture...than one would expect from what is in some respects a domestic-terror thriller." Chicago Tribune
"Choi's precise, cadenced prose alternates between plain-spokenness and lyrical dazzle. Her long, complex sentences compel us to follow wherever they go, and to admire the quiet authority, at once soothing and gripping, with which they arrive there." Francine Prose, New York Times
"The novel is a testament to Choi's deft handling of her material. She reworks the classic detective novel as literary fiction, and shows how, given the right set of circumstances, any one of us could be labeled 'a person of interest.'" San Francisco Chronicle
"The plot is intricate but the story never feels contrived or labored. Choi writes hard and true." Chicago Sun-Times
We read A Person of Interest for one of the best reasons to read any fiction: to transcend the limitations of our own lives, to find out what its like to be someone else, to recognize unmistakable aspects of ourselves staring back at us from the portrait of a stranger.
Francine Prose, The New York Times Book Review
Choi deftly turns our gaze away from the obvious and takes us on a complicated and revealing journey into the alienated heart of modern American life
Choi juggles suspense and psychological drama with an acrobatic dexterity.
Los Angeles Times
is a writer with rare gifts. She has an eye for the telling details that reveal complicated, fully developed characters as well as an equally acute sensitivity for the times we live in.
"Stunning . . . Choi's writing is elegant and surprisingly expansive."
Pulitzer Prize finalist Susan Choi returns with a straight-up thriller
cultural provocateur a la DeLillo, but with a keen sense of psychological nuance. . . . Choi has the all-too-rare talent of making the political feel unsettlingly personal.
Tenured math professor Lee has been teaching at a midwestern university for ages, yet he is utterly isolated within a web of anger and regret. When the popular young department star is gravely injured by a mail bomb, Lee is physically unharmed but psychically devastated. Assailed by painful memories of his affair with his only friend's wife and his own failed marriages, Lee, whose Asian backgroun is left deliberately vague, is completely undone when he becomes a person of interest to the FBI. How he handles the hostility of his colleagues and the invasion of his privacy by the government and the press is the engine that drives this intricately psychological novel's brainy suspense, while the slow unveiling of his past tells a staggering story of love betrayed. Choi follows the game plan of her lauded second novel, American Woman (2003), a takeoff on the Patty Hearst story, venturing here, albeit superficially, into Unabomber territory. Lee is unconvincing as a mathematician but mesmerizing in his ineptness and anguish. Subtle humor, emotional acuity, and breathtaking plot twists keep this tale of wounding secrets rolling as Choi's brilliant calculus of revelation and forgiveness delivers a triumphant conclusion.
Donna Seaman, Booklist, starred
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 emigre 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.
Publishers Weekly, starred
"[An] eloquent, penetrating novel . . . Behind the headlines that trigger Choi's imagination, she sees intricate, difficult lives; she sees romance and error and dignity and painand finally, as with Lee, she sees the possibility for redemption."
O, The Oprah Magazine
"No matter the year in which her novels are set, Choi's subject is contemporary American as much as it is America's past. The result is historical fiction with present-day relevance."
Poets & Writers
Masterful. . . . Choi seems to be working in a genre all her own: politically astute, historically based, and dramatically propulsive. [T]he suspense is solidly grounded in character, not twists. Its engine is the anxiety of a man whose sense of himself must be dismantled if hes going to survive, who only gets his life back after a maniac blows it up.
Chois writing probes the depths of Lees consciousness, as well as the collective consciousness of his small town, and reveals things about Lee he has not yet bothered to articulate to himself. . . . What is compelling about Chois characterizations is her sense of restraint . . . A Person of Interest is psychologically rich. The relationships fleshed out in Lees life especially his romance with his first wife, and the conflicts in and around their marriage are moving and compelling. The novel is a testament to Chois deft handling of her material. She reworks the classic detective novel as literary fiction, and shows how, given the right set of circumstances, any one of us could be labeled a person of interest.
-San Francisco Chronicle
Choi is wonderful at limning how strangeness roots in loneliness. . . . A Person of Interest brims with gifted writing, masterful observation, and propulsive plot. It sends Lee out to help solve the identity of the bomber, a role far more satisfactory than any lawsuit. In the barricaded past that the bombing stirs up, Lee finds a way to reassemble something essential, making for an unorthodox and deeply moving tale. The year is young, but A Person of Interest is the best new novel Ive read in 2008. -Cleveland Plain-Dealer
Engrossing, intricately plotted . . . . While A Person of Interest crackles with the sensationalism of the actual Unabomber events, it is anchored by its quiet portrait of a man in the melancholic twilight of his career, beset with regrets and professional jealousies.
-Time Out New York
[T]errible honesty, surrounded by unanswered questions, is what makes Susan Chois third novel so compelling. -Dallas Morning News
Engrossing . . . masterful.
-New York Sun
Beneath . . . less-than-cheery broad strokes Choi places a rich layer of well- chosen details.
If Henry James had lived in the age of pulp noirs, he might have wound up writing books a little like Susan Chois third novel, A Person of Interest. . . . Chois paragraphs are heavy, dense, carefully shaped mini-essays . . . her portrait of Lees paranoia is . . . exacting and affecting.
-Washington City Paper
"A tour de force . . . universal and raw and irresistibly sympathetic."
-The Washington Post Book World
"With nuance, psychological acuity, and pitch-perfect writing, she tells the large-canvas story of paranoia in the age of terror and the smaller (but no less important) story of the cost of failed dreams and the damage we do to one another in the name of love."
-Los Angeles Times
"Read A Person of Interest for one of the best reasons to read any fiction: to transcend the limitations of our own lives, to find out what it's like to be someone else, to recognize unmistakable aspects of ourselves staring back at us from the portrait of a stranger."
-Francine Prose, The New York Times Book Review
Praise for My Education
“The academic novel married to the novel of obsession is almost too pleasurable to contemplate, but thats what this book is…Chois an extremely confident writer, and in My Education she beautifully explores the way a young person tries, and often fails, to navigate her budding and intersecting sexual, intellectual, and emotional lives. The writing in this novel is masterful - but the book did something to me emotionally, too. I felt like I was in an obsessive relationship with it. I wanted to read it all the time.”—Meg Wolitzer, npr.org
“Choi gets top marks for slyly re-inventing the affaire de lAcadémie in My Education.”—Vanity Fair
“A fascinating examination of sexual politics and the many disguises of desire.”—The Daily Beast
“A scorching hot read…a chaise-lounge literary page-turner par excellence: sexy, smart, well-plotted, jammed with observations witty and profound, and so well-written it occasionally leaves you gasping.”—New York Newsday
“A tricky book to categorize. On the one hand, its a campus novel…At the same time, this is just the background against which the larger story unfolds. What Choi is after is the elusive territory of experience, the way people and events imprint us when were young and then linger, exerting a subtle pressure over how we live our lives.”—The Los Angeles Times
"Sizzling...a story filled with fiery love affairs, regrettable mistakes, and between-the-sheets scenes that blow 50 Shades of Grey out of the water."—self.com
“Explores a young heart and its painfully naïve and bold ways…Its The Graduate meets The L Word meets the Carey Mulligan flick An Education.”—Marie Claire
"My Education is a raw, wild, hurtling foray into the tangled realms of sexuality and self-knowledge. Susan Choi's vast gifts as a novelist are all on display, with her restlessness, curiosity and sheer daring leading the way." —Jennifer Egan
“When I finished Susan Chois My Education, I nearly gasped. She had managed one of the most exquisite of the novelists magic acts - produced a cogent, passionate, and surprising story, while acknowledging the ordinary, eroding aspects of lives lived daily. She had populated it with remarkable but utterly believable characters. She had written lines that could be framed, and displayed at a sentence festival. She has, in short, written an amazing book.” —Michael Cunningham
With its propulsive drive, vividly realized characters, and profound observations about soul and society, Pulitzer Prize-finalist Susan Choi's latest novel is as thrilling as it is lyrical, and confirms her place as one of the most important novelists chronicling the American experience. Intricately plotted and psychologically acute, A Person of Interest
exposes the fault lines of paranoia and dread that have fractured American life and asks how far one man must go to escape his regrets. Professor Lee, an Asian-born mathematician near retirement age would seem the last person to attract the attention of FBI agents. Yet after a colleague becomes the latest victim of a serial bomber, Lee must endure the undermining power of suspicion and face the ghosts of his past.
An intimately charged novel of desire and disaster from the author of American Woman and A Person of Interest
Regina Gottlieb had been warned about Professor Nicholas Brodeur long before arriving as a graduate student at his prestigious university high on a pastoral hill. He’s said to lie in the dark in his office while undergraduate women read couplets to him. He’s condemned on the walls of the women’s restroom, and enjoys films by Roman Polanski. But no one has warned Regina about his exceptional physical beauty—or his charismatic, volatile wife.
My Education is the story of Regina’s mistakes, which only begin in the bedroom, and end—if they do—fifteen years in the future and thousands of miles away. By turns erotic and completely catastrophic, Regina’s misadventures demonstrate what can happen when the chasm between desire and duty is too wide to bridge.
About the Author
Susan Choi is the author of American Woman, a finalist for the 2004 Pulitzer Prize, and The Foreign Student, which won the Asian-American Literary Award for fiction. She coedited with David Remnick the anthology Wonderful Town: New York Stories from The New Yorker, and has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts.