A Person of Interest

A Person of Interest

3.44 (964 ratings by Goodreads)
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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.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 356 pages
  • 137.16 x 213.36 x 22.86mm | 317.51g
  • Penguin Putnam Inc
  • The Penguin Press
  • United States
  • English
  • Reprint
  • 0143115022
  • 9780143115021
  • 753,095

Review quote

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. Heremains 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"
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About Susan Choi

The daughter of a Korean father and a Russian-Jewish mother, Susan Choi was born in Indiana and raised in Texas. She holds an undergraduate degree from Yale and an M.F.A. from Cornell. Her first novel, The Foreign Student, won the Asian American Literary Award. Her second novel, American Woman, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. A Person of Interest is her third book.
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Rating details

964 ratings
3.44 out of 5 stars
5 14% (136)
4 37% (359)
3 32% (306)
2 13% (128)
1 4% (35)
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