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by Tae Kim

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2010
ISBN: 978-0984435937

A young, successful lawyer living in New York City discovers that his closest friend harbored secrets built on shame and love.

Peter and Simon became friends in grade school when they discovered themselves to be not just the only Asian students but also part of a very small crowd of non-Jewish children. Over the years they shared triumphs and setbacks, providing emotional and financial support to each other as needed. Peter never expected to be acting as executor of his friend’s estate, but when Simon dies from self-inflicted stab wounds, Peter is left to work out the details of the will and recover from the shock and grief as best he can. Part of the shock comes from meeting Simon’s girlfriend Catherine and their daughter Joanna for the first time at the funeral. A successful businessman, Simon left behind a journal detailing the pivotal moments of his life (graduation, falling in love, depression) and through reading it, Peter gains further understanding of his friend, much of which Peter was protected from. He also gains a clearer view of the malicious intrigues surrounding the Chaebol, an elite group of powerful South Korean immigrants who may have played a hand in Simon’s death. Kim nicely handles intricate, recurring themes and images, such as that of the pigeon Simon saved from his mother’s balcony. The author is also talented at portraying a rough side of the city—room salons where men can purchase the attentions of beautiful women—with respect and compassion. Kim’s characters are precisely written yet maintain enough of a spark of vitality to keep readers caring and concerned. The story occasionally slows to a sluggish pace, specifically during the 40-plus pages of journal extraction, and a few of the plot twists seem based more on narrative convenience than natural development. Flashbacks and tangents sometimes overpower the quieter thrust of the contemporary mystery.

Despite a few weak spots, an enticing first book that reveals plenty of potential.