Tuesday, August 29, 2017


Title:  Gone:  A Girl, A Violin, A Life Unstrung
Author:  Min Kym
Publication Information:  Crown. 2017. 240 pages.
ISBN:  0451496078 / 978-0451496072

Book Source:  I received this book through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "I've been dreaming about my violin."

Favorite Quote:  "There were voices all around me, but I was beginning to exist in a world without explanations, without sharing, a world of givens, without the fluid discourse of speech. More and more my violin alone spoke for me. Listen to the violin. Hear what the violin has to say ... As long as I had my violin, I had no fear. The violin would set me on the right track. The violin would lead me through."

Gone:  A Girl, a Violin, A Life Unstrung is a story of loss and grief. It is the story of a young woman coming to terms with the loss of what is almost assuredly the most important relationship in her life. Every individual's grief and their path through it is unique; there is no one single path through a trauma. What makes Min Kym's journey even more unique is that the loss is not that of a person in her life. The central relationship in this book is not one between two human beings. Min Kym is a virtuoso violinist, and her grief surrounds the theft of her Stradivarius violin.

Even to a casual music listener as myself, the name Stradivarius conjures up an image of prestige, elegance and history. These violins were made be members of the Italian Stradivari family during the 17th and 18th centuries. Translate that to mean rare, expensive, and each with its own unique provenance. To play a Stradivarius violin is to play the very best there is. For a Stradivarius to be played by a virtuoso is an experience like no other. Interestingly, this memoir has an accompanying album that, in Ms. Kym's words, is "as much a memoir told in music as the book is in words." As I write this review, Ms. Kym's performances with the Stradivarius play in the background. Hearing that combination is a moving experience, perhaps more so than the book itself.

The written memoir begins well before Ms. Kym meets "her" Stradivarius. It traces her Korean immigrant roots, family expectations, her start in music at age six, and the lightning quick progression and recognition of her gift. She does not meet "her" violin until age twenty-one. Its theft becomes her undoing, unmooring her career and her life. The practical resolution of the theft has a rather prosaic ending involving issues such as insurance and economics. The emotional resolution is still a work in progress, and this book is part of that journey.

The single minded focus of a child prodigy and a virtuoso is both the strength and weakness of this book for that focus embeds in the writing style. Written as a first person narrative, this story has a single focus - the music. Everything else in her life - family, school, heritage, friendships, relationships - is evaluated in its relationship to or its impact on her pursuit of music.

Insight into a passion such as that is fascinating but challenging to read for an entire book. I gain an appreciation for the lifestyle and dedication that goes into such a pursuit. However, the intensity of Ms. Kym's relationship with music and her violin comes across quickly. After a while, to keep reading, the conversation or the story needs to develop. Otherwise, perhaps, it is more suited to a shorter format rather than a novel-length memoir. However, I am so glad to be introduced to Ms. Kym's performances, and her music will remain part of the music of my life.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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