So what’s funny is that even after Priya’s little remark that no one has mentioned anything about Jen, no one said anything. I decided to look a little further at her character in the novel.
So first of all, Suzy and Jen went to college together, where they studied all sorts of literature and dranks cafes out of their coffee stashes, dreading the ever-so-wrong decaf. What’s interesting about their relationship is that they each know each other inside and out. This is evident especially in the scene where they get together years after college to catch up and end up talking (Jen’s case) or thinking (Suzy’s case) about their individual problems, practically ignoring each other. Regardless, Jen is the only person that has known Suzy for a good length of time and still backs her up entirely. My take on Jen is that she is self-absorbed, but still cares about Suzy since she knows everything that she has gone through.
I found myself asking what Suzy truly thought of Jen. Suzy has practically isolated herself for years from all of her “close” friends save for the occasional get together for a cup of coffee, phone call, or even line of questioning. Suzy’s attention to solving her parents’ murder case is almost commendable since nothing seems to be able to keep her from it. This, in my opinion, can be attributed to the freedom that Suzy has chosen for herself from any obligations such as marriage or a consistent work shift. Suzy’s relaxed approach to life becomes the complete opposite of Jen. Jen is the chief editor of a publication that has her working never-ending shifts, and is keeping up in a relationship as well. She symbolizes what many people can consider a hard working, entrepreneurial woman.
So what is Jen’s role in this novel? First and foremost, Jen is an American woman that can be used as a distinct characterization of someone that will presumably exist in New York. Along with that, she is a contrast to Suzy and the other Korean-American immigrants that we see in that community. Often times, Jen can be considered Suzy’s muse, a character that instigates the questions and feelings that Suzy must ask and feel to move along in her investigation of her parents’ murder. There is also a certain amount of envy that is exchanged between the two primary characters of Suzy and Jen. Suzy sees a life in Jen that she may never achieve, one of successful work, problems that may not deal with death or corruption on a daily basis, and belonging to a community that is accepted with no bias of skin color. But then Jen sees Suzy as someone who is truly free to move within her society as a drifter with no real obligations other than the ones she chooses.
Jen isn’t used, as a character that affects Suzy one way or another in her investigation, but is important to Suzy because she doesn’t. She is one of a handful of characters that are symbolized as a loose comfort zone for Suzy. I feel comfortable calling Jen the official muse of Suzy.