Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Free Food for Millionaires

Published this fall, I picked this up because the Washington Post Sunday Source gave it an A. This is one of the few pieces of straight literature I've read this year. Plus, I am interested in Asian American writers, particularly women. That and I had a 25% off coupon from my local big box bookstore. Image found at, link in title above.

I have to say, Ms. Lee grabbed my attention from the very start and wouldn't let go. Casey Han is the primary protagonist. The story revolves around and through the lives of several people Casey is involved with, much like a trellis supports and frames the roses growing through it. In the opener, Casey has just graduated from Princeton, but doesn't have a job or a place of her own. If you assume this will be a typical story detailing a grown child returning to the nest to "figure out what I really want to do with my life," you couldn't be more wrong. I was too, so don't feel bad. There are no cliches here, trust me.

Ms.Lee slowly shows us just how unique each character, and by extension, how each of us is difficult, complicated and glorious all in one fell swoop. There is alot about Korean immigrant culture, and particularly the parent child relationship. IMO, most of these relationship issues could possibly be transposed over to any ethnic group with one caveat being the husband and wife relationship between Casey's parents- although that too is arguable.

Casey lives in NYC and has a high profile job on Wall Street, so there is a certain amount of brand name dropping, similar to what you might find in a chick lit novel. I found it irritating, but managed to ignore it for all of the action going on. We get to watch as Casey tries to feel her way through the perils and pitfalls of young adulthood: the parental expectations, the inner confusion, the problems with romantic relationships, money vs. education vs. priorities and expectations.

The ending is upbeat, but nothing is certain. I was left feeling hopeful that Casey and her buddies were all headed in a positive direction. Some of Ms. Lee's insights into motivation and behavior made me stop and think a long while before I picked up and carried on as before. She also seems to be very comapssionate towards her characters, event he despicable ones. This is a book I will treasure and reread often. Highly recommended. Keeper.

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