A Person of Interest by Susan Choi

A Person of Interest
368 pages; Viking
Susan Choi is fascinated by the political eccentric as a dramatic figure. Her last novel, American Woman, a runner-up for the 2004 Pulitzer Prize, was based on the Patty Hearst story, and her newest, A Person of Interest (Viking), combines elements from two recent series of events, the antitechnological terrorism of the Unabomber and the government's misprosecution of scientist Wen Ho Lee for secrets allegedly, but apparently not actually, given to the Chinese. In Choi's eloquent, penetrating novel, the two stories are brought together. The "Brain Bomber," as he comes to be known, sends his first bomb to a technology guru in the math department at an unnamed university. It kills its intended victim and comes close to maiming an Asian-American mathematician named Lee, whose office is next door and who becomes wrongly suspected in the bombing. From the first, Choi makes this Lee's story: He is the person of interest for her, cold, haughty, and broken. She takes us back to his first fumbled attempts as a graduate student to make friends and find love, and returns to his surreal present, a lonely academic, two divorces behind him, longing to hear from his estranged daughter. Behind the headlines that trigger Choi's imagination, she sees intricate, difficult lives; she sees romance and error and dignity and pain—and finally, as with Lee, she sees the possibility of redemption.
— Vince Passaro