Monday, November 19, 2007

Free Food for Millionaires by Min Jin Lee

Check this book out at the library to read at least the first chapter. Min Jin Lee does an amazing job of capturing the family dynamics while introducing the four members of the Han family. This chapter is told from four points of view. Casey Han is the central character. She is living at home after recently graduating from Princeton. Her younger sister, Tina, is on break from MIT. It would appear to be every parent’s dream to have two such bright and successful daughters. Leah and Joseph, the parents, married, had Casey and Tina right away, and then immigrated to the United States. They manage a dry cleaning business. The author pulls the reader in and it becomes obvious that this family dinner is heading in a troublesome, but not unanticipated, direction. It is clear that each family member has a role to play and knows what is coming.

The story continues following Casey as she struggles with what to do in her life after college. Her conflicts with her boyfriends, her interactions with a businesswoman who has repeatedly helped her, her financial issues, and her continuing struggles with her family are the backdrop to her main struggle with choosing a career and getting along in the larger world. Here she reacts to a kindness from her boyfriend’s mother. “Casey swallowed, unable to speak. Her parents had never said anything like that in her entire life. Korean people like her mother and father didn’t talk about love, about feelings-at least this was how Casey and Tina had explained it to themselves for not getting these words they wanted to hear.” (pg 75) She spends a great deal of time thinking about her clothing. This is not something that I am into, but I could appreciate her view. “Through clothing, Casey was able to appear casual, urbane, poor, rich, bohemian, proletariat. Now and again, she wondered what it’d be like to never want to look like anything at all – instead, to come as you are.” (pg 219)

The story is told from multiple points of view. At times I wished the story would focus more on Casey rather than, for example, the thoughts of her mother’s choir instructor. It is a long story and does not keep the intenseness of the first chapter the whole way through. As I was nearing the end of the book, I started to wonder how everything was going to be wrapped up. I realized that like real life, the story of Casey Han, her friends and family, her co-workers and acquaintances, was not going to end neatly. And that was okay. It is a good read, especially if you are in the mood for a longer book.

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