Brooke Robinson is a playwright who used the downtime during the pandemic to write her first novel, The Interpreter. While it is quite a dense book, Robinson executes it with skill and style—entertaining while also educating.

As readers will no doubt guess from the title, The Interpreter centers around Revelle Lee, a polyglot who uses her talents to aid in communication for those in need—in her case often court cases, medical appointments, and other official visits where a person’s native language needs to be translated so that others can understand and act.

Brooke Robinson uses her narrative to inform readers of just how important this service is to the functioning of society. As we become a more Global community, differences in language can create serious impediments, so the role of any interpreter is to convey the speaker’s meaning without editorializing, embellishing, or otherwise influencing the receiver of the information. In other words, they are meant to be a third party to the equation that imparts no undo influence or emotional response. Just thinking on that for a moment, it’s easy to grasp how difficult a task that probably is.

From the start of The Interpreter, readers become aware that Revelle made a serious mistake in a translation early in her career as an interpreter—one that was never discovered, but for which she continues to feel major guilt. This thread is just one of many that must be followed during the course of the novel until finally all answers are revealed.

When Revelle crosses paths with a woman who is found dead several days later, she feels she must step in to do what she can to make sure justice is served. But how far will she go?

Meanwhile, Revelle is also in the process of adopting a six-year-old boy who has been removed from his birth family due to addiction and abuse. She is constantly aware of the fact that her every action affects the likelihood of the adoption being approved and yet, she can’t help but get entangled in business that is not hers.

Anyone thinking of picking up The Interpreter should know that Revelle Lee is a morally ambiguous character. Some of her actions will be unfathomable to most readers, making her in some ways a very unlikeable lead character. And yet, there is also something extremely genuine about Revelle, which helps to soften those rougher edges. The success of the novel really hinges on whether each reader can accept Revelle’s major flaws and their willingness to at least rationalize her intentions—albeit probably not her methods.

For much of The Interpreter, the main plot—if there is one—seems elusive. There are many threads, each of which is fascinating in its own right, but readers looking for a clear throughline will find themselves floundering a bit. This is not a criticism so much as a result of this author’s unique style. Eventually, things do coalesce into a thriller in which Revelle must keep her family safe while righting some wrongs. Readers will definitely understand her anxiety, even if the choices she ultimately makes seem extreme and ill-advised.

Brooke Robinson is clearly a talented wordsmith and The Interpreter is never less than engaging. Likely due to her background as a playwright, much of the action here in internal. While some will have issues with the content of the narrative, most readers will look forward to seeing what Brooke Robinson does next, with a character that isn’t quite so cavalier and reckless.

BUY LINKS: The Interpreter by Brooke Robinson

Disclaimer: A print galley of this title was provided to BOLO Books by the publisher. No promotion was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.