Stitch and Bear

A long-running Irish blog with reviews of the best restaurants in Dublin and throughout Ireland. Some wine and cocktails thrown in for good measure!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Free Food for Millionaires - Min Jin Lee

This debut novel from Min Jin Lee tackles the Korean immigrant experience. Our protagonist is Casey Han, a Princeton graduate who has acheived academically, has moved outside her family's social circle and yet cannot seem to break into the established society that she thinks she craved. On the other hand, we meet her immigrant parents, who have worked hard all their lives in a dry-cleaning shop. Although we realise throughout the book that they are not poor, neither are they wealthy and they cling to their Korean background and ways. The portrait of Casey's mother througout the book is especially charming.

Casey struggles through her life, breaking with her father's controlling ways but remains unable to find stability in her life. The whole story appears to be a tale of non-committal on Casey's part. At the start she finds it within herself to break up with her lover, as she cannot picture them together forever. However, throughout most of the novel, we cannot find the same determination within her. She is prepared to work two jobs to earn a wage, earning enough to keep ticking over, yet she never takes a step towards more.

Towards the end of the story, Casey makes a big decision. Having worked hard to secure an internship and gain an offer of employment, she decides to turn it down. She is on the cusp of a breakthrough and this where the author rus out of steam. As a result, this intriguing and captivating tale runs out of steam and becomes a large volume with no real ending.

Casey's friends and family follow their own lives in this book, with their stories running in parallel to Casey's. The trials and tribulations of love, marriage and affairs are explored with beautiful nuances and add an incredible tone to this book.

Despite enjoying this book immeasurably, and racing through the pages, I was ultimately left discontent at the end. Questions about the immigrant experience and the quest to find one's own path in life are raised and treated in this novel, but there's nothing quite like a good ending.

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