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I love an unreliable narrator that you can't help but trust, even as their narrative gives you more and more reason to doubt, and even to fear them. Lee's Doc Hata is just that--an upstanding citizen who emigrated from Japan, loyal father to his adopted daughter Sunny, a community pillar in the wealthy (and white) town of Bedley Run, and a man with much to hide. For years, Doc Hata has tried to build a new life in a new country, placid and pleasant and conflict-free. But his is a past that casts long shadows, and try as he might, Hata cannot erase his years as a doctor's assistant in the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II, and the comfort women* whose wounds he treated while they were savaged by the soldiers. As Hata's story unfolds, his preternaturally calm surface grows increasingly sinister until you're left to wonder what this man, or any man, is truly capable of.
*Korean women forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese army— From Lillian
"A Gesture Life is the touching, multilayered rumination of an uneasy psyche. It is also a tragic, horrifying page-turner, whose evocation of wartime victims is unforgettable...A deeply involving tale, no less so because we realize, almost from the first chapter, that we can't trust Hata's version of events. [Lee] enlists the reader's full energies to interpret this enigmatic speaker, who saddens, baffles and unfuriates us all at once."—Chicago Tribune
"Once again, this gifted young author has given us a beautifully tapestried story of seeking identity and acceptance in another culture while remaining separate from the tug of it."—The Christian Science Monitor
"Lee elegantly creates suspense out of the seemingly static story of a man trying hard not to feel. He has written a wise and humane novel that both amplifies the themes of identity and exile he addressed in Native Speaker, and creates a wonderfully resonant portrait of a man caught between two cultures and two lives."—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times