A child prodigy suffers a great loss and then finds herself.
This memoir tells a number of different stories, all of them involving what the virtuosic violinist calls “two Mins.” The first is that of a South Korea–born girl living in England learning that children should be subservient to elders and that girls are inferior. Then there is the prodigy Min, who came to realize just how isolated she had become from ordinary life. Ultimately, there was Min with the violin and Min without, and she developed into a woman who has a life independent of her instrument, one who has found some measure of peace and fulfillment on her own as well as a mature perspective on what she has been through: “I was a little Korean girl thrown into a strange world. I was asked to perform without quite knowing who I was. It’s still a strange world, and I am still Korean, but I don’t bow any more. I know who I am.” In the early chapters, the writing about a child’s passion for music, how it differs for a prodigy, and how it feels to be part of two cultures and somehow apart from each has a purity and stylistic simplicity that are themselves musical, as if Kym has been able to transfer her great potential from her violin to her writing. Yet the story at the heart of this memoir has a complexity with which the author still wrestles. Kym resents that she accedes to the insistence of others, to mentors and to men in general, and her failure to follow her better instincts resulted in the theft of her extremely valuable 1696 Stradivarius violin. She might have eventually gotten it back if, again, she hadn’t listened to others in making wrong decisions. The story of losing, regaining, and losing the violin again keeps the author torn between accepting responsibility and resenting others. “I had devils in my ear,” she writes.
A pellucid memoir of letting go and coming to terms.