It’s a long book, over six hundred pages, but it still annoyed me that some 150 pages in, I’m being told important traits about the protagonist. When the reader learns, over a quarter of the way in, that she’s oddly religious and even sees signs (not necessarily religious revelations, but still something quasi-gnostic), it feels like discovering something new than an author introducing a deus ex machina to move something along.
The protagonist, Casey Han, is often rereading Middlemarch and I suspect Lee sees it as a model for this book. But who is the village? The Korean-American community? The wealthy of Manhattan around whose edges Casey flits? It’s not clear. And despite being clearly soap opera-ish, Eliot never feels like a soap opera. This does. Must the Korean boyfriend have a gambling problem? Must the jerk husband have sex on the trading floor? Must the middle aged mother and the choir director have an affair? I never thought I’d say this, but I could use more social commentary and less sex.
Finally, if we accept that this is ultimately a soap opera, then the philosophical ending is unearned. She was aiming at a novel that deserved such an ending, but she ultimately didn’t achieve it. Despite some of the trappings, it was closer to Crazy Rich Asians than to George Eliot.