I’m not sure why I decided to read this book. I’d read her much acclaimed Trust Exercise and had found it fascinating, well-written, yet finally unsatisfying.
I wonder if I feel the same way about this one?
The surprise ending (should I give it away? I don’t know) didn’t tie things up the way it should have. Not that things should have been tied up with a proverbial neat little bow. Indeed not. Messiness was a sort of theme of the novel. But the surprise didn’t seem to ‘justify’ what preceded it. Or rather, the surprise diminished what came before.
This isn’t the surprise, but one nice twist to what begins as a campus novel is that the handsome, rakish professor with a reputation for sleeping with graduate students is not the love interest; it’s his wife.
And the affair between her (a professor in her right, I should add) and the protagonist, a young woman, is painfully and beautifully messy. The friction and the fights and the character flaws are oh so wonderfully and naturalistically conveyed. And when the novel, near the end, skips ahead more than a decade, Choi captures the cycles of life by pairing the protagonist with a husband who is, in his own, quiet way, as manipulative, demeaning, and controlling as was that earlier, dramatic and cruel lover.
Which is perhaps why I felt let down. After so perspicaciously depicting the relationship and its reverberations through the main character’s life, surely it deserved better (though I enjoyed the suggestion that she was, in the end, a secondary character in her own story)?