The figurative language of Angie Kim…

Reading time: About 2 minutes

I like to share interesting pieces of figurative language I encounter in my reading. I write today about similes from Angie Kim….

Angie Kim, pictured above, moved as a preteen from Seoul, South Korea, to the US, where she studied philosophy at Stanford University and attended Harvard Law School, where she was an editor of the Harvard Law Review.

Her debut novel, Miracle Creek, won the Edgar Award and the ITW Thriller Award, and was named one of the 100 best mysteries and thrillers of all time by Time Magazine. Her second novel, Happiness Falls — which I’m writing about today — was an instant New York Times bestseller.

Both a mystery and a family drama, the book tells the story of a father who goes missing and his family’s desperate efforts to find him. 
Although Angie Kim knows how to write an effective page-turner, she also knows how to give it emotional resonance with finely-tuned figurative language. Here are my favourite examples:

  • They [air conditioners] sputter like lawn mowers when switched on and off, which because they weren’t synchronized, happened at different times — one, then the other, then back again, like some strange mechanical beasts’ mating calls.
  • Young smoothed Mary’s forehead lighting, as if ironing silk.
  • All year, Mary had tried hard not to think about them, about that night, but today, hearing about their last moments, imagining their pain — it was as if the images were needles surgically implanted throughout her brain, and every time she moved the tiniest bit, they poked her, sending white-hot flashes bursting behind her eyeballs and making her want to relive the pressure, just open her mouth and scream.
  • Shannon looked at him with amused pity, the way teens look at kids who still believe in the tooth fairy.
  • His face normally the color of oiled mahogany, was a blotched russet, and a film of half-dried sweat matted his skin.
  • Abs said things like this a lot, things that were meant to be reassuring but, really, when you thought about it, left wiggle room the size of a cathedral.
  • The air conditioners were on, but they sounded feeble, sputtering once in a while as if exhausted.
  • She swayed slightly, back and forth, like a shirt on a hanger in the summer breeze, and as Teresa leaned in to steady her, she opened her mouth in a silent howl.
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