Rating: 2/5 stars
Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Contemporary
Reading Challenges: 1 (Asian Author: Korean); 3 (LGBT+ author)
While I love a good mystery, this book didn’t do it for me. Almost at the start of the novel, I was able to guess what the “mystery” element would be. I wish that this book had held me in a little bit more suspense than it had.
Another thing that I found issue in was the main character, Helen, and her obsession with thinking that she’s the best, most ethical person there is. She claims that she’s the best at everything she does even though time and time again it’s shown that she’s not as good at everything as she thinks she is. While this could be a good plot point in a book if the character is able to show growth, Helen seems to remain incapable of seeing her own faults. Helen is the spitting image of an unreliable narrator, but she was not written well.
That being said, my biggest issue with Helen would probably have to be the fact that she’s the most self-absorbed person I’ve read about in a while. Everything that’s happening around her has to be related to her own experiences, even if there’s no correlation. She questions what stories about her dead brother have to do with her life and what she could do with the information instead of being thankful that she’s learning more about her brother. As well, she seems perfectly content at blocking out other peoples’ existences when they don’t benefit her in any way. Not only that, but Helen remains delusional as to her own self-absorption. There’s even a moment in the book where Helen laments that she prefers to be “an extra in the movie of [her] own life”.
I have no problem reading about a character that I personally don’t like, or even being in their head, but that’s only when the plot is able to grasp my attention and hold some weight. In this book, however, I felt like there was only the barest hint of a plot around Helen’s musings. While the synopsis of the book talks about Helen trying to figure out why her brother took his own life, the book doesn’t seem to be about this at all. The real mystery, to me, was finding out why Helen was so obsessed with herself and how she believed that she was perfect.
While it is true that this book shows how Helen is attempting to deal with her grief, very little of what is said has to do with anything other than her own self-absorption. I’d be more understanding of this if her self-obsession hasn’t been established before Helen received the news that her brother was dead.
After finishing this book and reading some reviews about it, I don’t understand how people were able to find this story humorous. There was nothing funny to me, seeing a person who has their own issues trying to overcome grief in the only way she knows how. While I did not personally enjoy this story, I would never laugh at someone’s pain. I can’t think of anything in this story that there was to laugh about other than someone being so close minded as to laugh at another’s struggles and pain.
Sure Helen is not a character I like, but that doesn’t mean that I’m willing to laugh at her struggles. I don’t think anyone should be made fun of for the struggles they go through or how they deal with their situation in life. So if you do decide to read this story, please think about the message that it’s trying to get across, and how Helen is trying to deal with her situation, before you decide that something is funny. Try to put yourself in her situation and see how you would feel being laughed at.
Yes, the writing and phrasing was weird at times, but that doesn’t negate the fact that this is a story about someone dealing with the grief of losing a loved one. Yes, Helen makes mistakes, but she’s human. I don’t think it’s right to laugh at someone for trying to help out and accidentally messing up.
Please, think about how your thoughts or actions would impact a person before you act on them. Yes, Helen is a fictional character, but there are so many people alive right now going through similar things. Please, have some empathy and compassion.