Coming January 9th, 2024!

The Fetishist

by Katherine Min

Kirkus Reviews

Three musicians reckoning with loss search for meaning, healing, and revenge.

Despite her tattoos and piercings, Kyoko Tokugawa is shy, preferring to express her biggest emotions on stage with her guitar, or in her murder plot. Kyoko’s target is Daniel Karmody, a professional violinist and serial seducer of Asian American women, including Kyoko’s mother. In the years since her mother’s death, Daniel, the white, philandering fetishist, has haunted Kyoko. In her quest to avenge her mother, Kyoko aims not only to kill Daniel but to destroy him, setting loose the ghosts of his past misdeeds in an attempt to force repentance. Across the country, Alma Soon Ja Lee, a former colleague and fiancee of Daniel’s, stares at her cello. With her multiple sclerosis progressing, Alma finds her once-musical life has gone clinically quiet. Alma’s surging despair provides an opportunity to examine the characters of her past, including the “rice kings.” From the misguided attempts at connection (“I have a black belt in karate, I love Vietnamese food, I think Kurosawa is the Asian Spielberg”) to the more menacing advances, Alma inventories her experiences with the men who mistook her for a doll, a vixen, or a colonialist conquest. The lives of Alma, Daniel, and Kyoko echo and interweave, forming a trio of stories in much the same way the characters themselves might, if holding their instruments. The narrative accompanies Kyoko, Alma, and Daniel both forward and backward in time, but it is the past that mires them, pitted with losses that seem not only unavoidable, but addictive. This novel is framed as a fairy tale, perhaps to relieve the concern that these stories, gaping with grief, have sealed a bit too neatly by the end. Still, it is sensitive and insightful, and its detangling of the knot that is racism, otherness, and desire is nothing short of expert.A tenderly told tale of the losses that wreck and redeem us.