Paris Review: Staff Picks

“Sometimes my therapist, bless her, mentions phobias I don’t have. ‘You’re not an agoraphobe,’ she offered on Wednesday. But nevertheless, I am skeptical of crowded opinions. Books loved by enormous groups of people unnerve me. I skirted WOLF HALL for ages, and the number of people who told me PACKINKO is a good book is equal to the number of times I responded, ‘Oh, I have to read that,’ and then didn’t. I shouldn’t have hesitated. Min Jin Lee began her career as a lawyer, and her interest in research and justice shines through this compelling family narrative. It is sweeping but specific. When my reading lamp putters out­—the only way I can close the book at night—words and images last: Sunja’s simplest chima, or the way her mother cuts radishes in perfect cubes. Huge cultural questions also sweep past, not unanswered but unanswerable: How do communities thrive on each other’s exclusion? How can a people flourish when their equity is rejected? This book is so much about the collective, its fragility and its dangers, paper-thin walls and the thickness of blood.” —Julia Berick