Voir Dire by Don Lee – a story review

Voir Dire

Hank Low Kwon- lawyer with moral dillemas

Molly Beddle – lawyer’s squeeze

Chee Seng Lam- coke addict

Simon Liu – dead kid

Ruby Liu – dead kid’s mom, whore and drug addict

“The funny thing is, you wouldn’t be able to tell. No one would. If I’m not blatantly incompetent, no one would ever know.”

Hank’s biggest case in four years, defending Lam who beat his g/f’s kid to death with a doubled up electrical chord. Was looking for a triangle to match the earlier story, but the only thing I could come up with was a manufactured structure connecting Hank, Molly and Hank’s work. It just doesn’t work, though. There is a tension within Hank that weighs his career against his family life. He’s defending a despicable person, someone who makes it fairly well known (in private, not in court) that he feels no remorse for his actions, and the type of world that might allow such a person to walk freely out of the court against the prospect of starting his own family and bringing a kid into such a world.

Behind Hank’s contemplations, there is Molly, who surfs, who uses a trampoline to request sex, and who, at the end, we’re told will someday “crush” him as she catapults herself towards him. She comes across as carefree, physical, perhaps shielded from the ugly world of Hank’s profession. But she also offers the common sense advice that Hank’s work is just work, it goes with the job. The unspoken half of this conversation seems to be that he needs to just quit worrying, compartmentalize it, and live his life.

The work/life duality feels too mundane to follow. This might just be one of those stories where it is an enjoyable enough read but there isn’t a whole lot to off of after that. It says what it says and that’s all. If there’s anything to be said of the story, it might be its universiality. Hank’s doubts about the world are doubts that the majority of us are likely to share at some point, and it’s to be expected that such doubts would creep up at a point when Molly is pregnant.

Hank’s ex-wife, Allison, is introduced about halfway through the story, and we find out that her refusal to have children was a bit of a sticking point in their relationship, something that would come up in arguments. However, outside of this info, I’m not sure she plays any real role in the story. She shows up, we find out she’s Korean (same as Hank, whereas Molly isn’t), labeled a “Kuppie” by Hank (Korean Yuppie) and that neither seems to really desire the other at all at this point. So the only purpose behind her appearance seems to be to establish that, in the past, Hank had used the refusal of children as part of a larger excuse to get out of a relationship, and now he is having doubts about having a child. But, again, this doesn’t seem out of the ordinary – there is always a difference between wanting something and actually getting it and realizing there might be more to it than what you were expecting.

In the end, the emotional core of the store might just be more than its tangible components. The frailty of life, and the avenues of pain, opened up by committing to a relationship and to having children, are clearly reflected in the main character’s dealing with his significant other and his having to defend a despicable character. In an odd way, though, Hank’s having to deal with Chee Seng shows Hank that he could never become that bad of a father/spouse. It’s a case that almost seems to “scare Hank straight” on where he stands with his relationship and where he wants it, and needs it, to go.

Alright, there’s my slapdash review of Voir Dire. I can’t help but feel there is more I want to add, but I also have the feeling that I will wind up repeating what I have said and proceed to go nowhere. So I’m going to leave this where it is.

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