Woman of Interest: A Memoir (Hardcover)

Woman of Interest: A Memoir By Tracy O'Neill Cover Image

Woman of Interest: A Memoir (Hardcover)


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MOST ANTICIPATED READ and MUST READ OF 2024: The Millions, LitHub, Esquire, BookRiot, Bustle, Vulture, Boston Globe, Brit & Co, Southern Living

A National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35 honoree delivers her first work of nonfiction: a compulsively readable, genre-bending story of finding her missing birth mother and, along the way, learning the priceless power of self-knowledge.

In 2020, Tracy O’Neill began to rethink her ideas of comfort and safety. Just out of a ten-year relationship and thirtysomething, she was driven by an acute awareness that the mysterious mother she’d never met might be dying somewhere in South Korea.

After contacting a grizzled private investigator, O’Neill took his suggested homework to heart when he disappeared before the job was done, picking up the trail of clues and becoming her own hell-bent detective. Despite COVID-19, the promise of what she might discover—the possibility that her biological mother was her kind of outlaw, whose life could inspire her own—was too tempting.

Written like a mystery novel, Woman of Interest is a tale of self-discovery and fugitivity from convention that features a femme fatale of unique proportions, a former CIA operative with a criminal record, and a dogged investigator of radical connections outside the nuclear family. O’Neill gorgeously bends the detective genre to her own will as a writer, stepping out of the shadows of her own self-conception to illuminate the hopes of the woman of interest she is both chasing and becoming.

Tracy O’Neill is the author of the novels The Hopeful and Quotients. In 2015, she was named a National Book Foundation 5 Under 35 honoree, long-listed for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize, and was a Narrative Under 30 finalist. In 2012, she was named a Center for Fiction’s Emerging Writers Fellow. O’Neill teaches at Vassar College, and her writing has appeared in Granta, the New York Times, Rolling Stone, The Atlantic, The New Yorker, Bookforum, and other publications. She holds an MFA from the City College of New York and an MA, an MPhil, and a PhD from Columbia University.

"Woman of Interest is a memoir wrapped in a mystery—an inward examination of family, identity, and self, but also an actual gumshoe detective story that takes the author to the other side of the world. With each extraordinary, prickly sentence, O’Neill’s search for her biological mother is conjured with clarity and conflict. This is a work that is funny, moving, mean—an exceptional book from an extraordinary writer." — Kevin Nguyen, author of New Waves

"Woman of Interest is a brilliantly constructed Russian doll of a memoir—a profound meditation on language and desire within an insightful family mythology within a propulsive detective story. How does Tracy O’Neill hold it all together? With a rare combination of exquisite prose, good humor, and intellectual rigor." — Nadia Owusu, author of Aftershocks

"Know this: Tracy O’Neill has a novelist’s sense of narrative, the eye and ear of a poet, and the luminous mind of young philosopher—gifts woven into an innovative, propulsive, and trenchant memoir about the search for self and one’s roots as well as the evolution of family myths. This book, as is Tracy, is an exemplar of literary brilliance." — Mitchell S. Jackson, author of Survival Math

"With Woman of Interest, Tracy O’Neill solidifies her status as one of our greatest living prose stylists. With a singular wit and brilliance, O’Neill expands the horizons of the memoir, pushing the boundaries of the genre into the realm of detective noir and thrilling quest narrative. O’Neill’s formal innovations and bracing prose create a new and invigorating lens through which readers can view a universal theme: the desire to search for the self and one’s source." — Chloé Cooper Jones, author of Easy Beauty

"A funny, effervescent addition to the memoir-as-detective-story genre." — Nicole Chung, Esquire

"A fascinating and immersive look at identity, dedication and unanswered questions." — Tobias Carroll, InsideHook

"Cool, noir-tinted prose shot through with wit and compassion, O’Neill presents her inquiry as a sort of metaphysical detective story. Readers will be riveted." — Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Resembles what experimental jazz would be like if it were a written narrative. Funny, shocking, and emotionally charged, the memoir takes readers on [O'Neill's] journey of self-discovery and finding what family means." — Library Journal

"O’Neill’s prose brims with intelligence, energy, and humor." — New York

"[An] urgent, atmospheric memoir meets noir about family shadows, writing, and the pursuit of searching for answers we know we might never find." — Oprah Daily

"This is a work that is funny, moving, mean—an exceptional book from an extraordinary writer." — Literary Hub

"Dark, deeply funny ... Framing her narrative as a detective story, [O'Neill] writes in a comedic voice that’s at once old-fashioned and contemporary—Dashiell Hammett meets Fleabag." — New Yorker

"[A] genre-expanding noir memoir-detective story, full of drama, intrigue, bizarre characters, even more bizarre behavior, and unexpected twists." — New York Journal of Books

"[O'Neill] writes with convincing and passionate introspection….Woman of Interest contains shining moments, such as a road trip with O’Neill’s newfound sister and the author’s distilled descriptions of childhood." — New York Times

"The literature of the Korean adoptee typically circles around a fundamental void, an abyss: the loss of the biological mother….O’Neill elevates the subgenre, producing a memoir that is simultaneously an investigation, a noir with a femme fatale, and a darkly humorous tale of what happens when one meets the person who has everything and nothing to do with one’s life….Instead of the reparative gestures of a traditional adoptee memoir, Woman of Interest offers something darker, colder, more fraught, and ultimately, singular and transcendent." — Patrick Cottrell, Bomb

"O’Neill is a true stylist; her prose brims with intelligence, energy, and humor. This memoir exploring identity and family is unlike any other." — Vulture

"O’Neill leverages her significant talent to infuse the tension of a hard-boiled mystery novel into an exploration of motherhood, identity, and belonging." — Bustle

"By choosing the tone of a noir, she inhabits a narrative space full of macabre humor, plot twists and offbeat characters. Her sentences run to the jangling and unpredictable rhythms of the classic detective story, with spare descriptions and snappy, deadpan dialogue. ... O’Neill reports on a quest that, while uniquely her own in terms of form and content, is also relatable to anyone who has ever looked in the mirror and wondered, 'Who am I, really? And who are my people?'" — BookPage

"One of the most distinctive prose stylists writing today…[O’Neill] approaches this deeply personal quest like an icy cool spy on an assignment of international espionage." — Boston Globe

"There are some new summer books that have nothing to do with fiction, but read like a mystery novel. This is one of them." — Brit + Co

"Her memoir at times reads like a thriller and does so right at the beginning ... O’Neill captures in her writing the complexities of family and the pain caused by separation and by keeping secrets." — Asian Review of Books