Siobhan O’Brien is marking her second anniversary at the Ed Baker Investigative Agency when she finds her boss dead at his desk and then learns that he has left his business to her. A Korean American adoptee, who must explain her name constantly, she takes her first solo case from an old acquaintance. Josie Sykes’ daughter, Penny, cut off contact with her mother just months into her freshman year at Llewellyn College in upstate New York, and after Josie’s efforts to reach the girl are rebuffed by a feminist contingent protesting changes in the direction the college is taking, Josie hires Siobhan to find Penny. It’s a job that takes the neophyte detective into the inner workings of Llewellyn, whose former-model president, despite the college’s supposed financial straits, is launching a yoga and healing center and pursuing bizarre research on forestalling aging. Despite a somewhat hasty wrap-up, this first in a series holds promise, given Woo’s punchy prose style, diverse milieu, and the potential romantic relationship between Siobhan and the lawyer whose office is down the hall. A series to watch. — Michele Leber
Huge thanks to the lovely folks at Booklist who chose Love Love as one of the titles for this year. It’s not every day that I get to share a list with Jonathan Franzen, Lauren Groff, and Anne Tyler! Here’s what they had to say about their picks:
The Adult Books editors have selected the following titles as representative of the year’s outstanding books for public library collections. Our scope has been intentionally broad, and we have attempted to find books that combine literary, intellectual, and aesthetic excellence with popular appeal.
And here’s the blurb for mine.
Love Love. By Sung J. Woo. Soft Skull, $15.95 (9781593766177).
Their father’s medical crisis reveals shocking lies and fractures in the lives of siblings Judy Lee, a 38-year-old temp who once dreamed of being an artist, and former tennis pro Kevin in Woo’s sharp, astute, and stunning novel of aging, loss, and disillusion.
Booklist, you made my year.
So the second review is now available online, and it’s the best of the bunch. So good that the lovely people at Booklist gave me a starred review.
Woo’s follow-up to his debut, Everything Asian (2009), follows two adult siblings forced to confront their dissatisfaction with their lives. Judy Lee is a 38-year-old temp who has more or less given up on her dreams of being an artist, while her older brother, Kevin, has been teaching tennis at a country club since his professional tennis career came to an end. Their father is dying of renal failure, but Kevin’s plans to donate a kidney to him come to a screeching halt when he learns he is not only not a match for his father, he is not even his biological son. This discovery turns Kevin’s world upside down, sending him on a quest for his birth parents and forcing him to confront his grief over the breakup of his marriage. Judy, who blames her father for the death of her mother, won’t even consider donating a kidney. Woo’s observations about aging, loss, and disillusionment are so smart, so sharp and astute that they’ll haunt readers long after the final page has been turned. That he manages to find the beauty, humor, and even optimism in the struggle makes this glorious, at times painful, but always rewarding novel a stunning achievement. — Kristine Huntley
This title has been recommended for young adult readers:
YA/Mature Readers: Though the Lee siblings are older, their plights–one wrestling with a new love, the other searching for his birth parents–will intrigue sophisticated readers. —Kristine Huntley