“A Cab Called Reliable” by Patti Kim

By Jae-Ha Kim
Cleveland Plain Dealer
April 26, 1998

Patti Kim shows the eloquent anguish of an abandoned child in her debut novel, A Cab Called Reliable (St. Martin’s, 156 pp., $18.95 . Her story is told through the eyes of 9-year-old Ahn Joo Cho, a Korean immigrant whose life changes forever when she sees her mother and little brother drive off in a cab. Without her.

The last thing she remembers seeing is the word “reliable” on the car door.

Left alone with her narcissistic father, Ahn Joo waits for her mother to return — as she had promised in her note — hanging onto hope as each day passes. The cruelty of a parent’s broken promise is better than none at all.

Like her heroine, Kim was born in South Korea and gives Ahn Joo the perspective common to many immigrants: trying to blend into the melting pot while still maintaining a sense of one’s roots. Kim falters in some of her passages that are supposed to pass for Ahn Joo’s  English assignments: They sound too contrived to reflect the real emotions of an adult, much less a small child.

But, at her best, Kim conveys the mixed emotions Ahn Joo has of her father, who is both dependent and abusive.

“I told myself that it was good that I did not cry in front of him because he would have said  something to make me laugh,” Kim writes of Ahn Joo, who has just quarreled with her father.  “And laughing would have been the beginning of my liking him.”

Kim, the author of “Best Of  Friends” (HarperCollins) is a Chicago reporter and critic.  She is not related to Patti Kim.


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