Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Book Review: Free Food for Millionaires by Min Jin Lee
First, an excuse (of sorts): During a routine visit to a doctor yesterday, there was a minor incident. Despite it being somewhat embarrassing (I prefer to be seen as strong and healthy and capable), the good thing is that it led to the discovery of severe anemia. Well, not such a good thing, but it explained many things, including my serious, complete, and confounding exhaustion for the past six months. When your blood pressure is that low, apparently, they are surprised to see you even standing!
I'm typically fairly hyper and always on the move, always doing something, and it's been seriously depressing to come home from work and barely be able to take a shower. Dinners have not been cooked, and I have not been writing -- that was the worst of all. I just didn't have the energy to sit down and write. If I wrote 400 words, I would be utterly spent. So anyway, anemia is not the world's worst thing -- hey, I was at the doctor in the first place because I am at high risk for breast cancer, and speaking of which, Ladies, Get Your Boobies Checked! -- but treatment is slow. Apparently, it takes about three months for your blood to completely renew itself. And I perceive physical problems with my body to be some sort of personal failing. I know, whacked.
This could be a sign that I need to slow down and take a break. OR NOT.
I hope to be back to regular blogging and writing daily again soon.
Now, the review:
Free Food for Millionaires has been on my to-read list for a couple of years. Deeply immersive, it follows Casey Han, daughter of Korean immigrants, as she struggles to find her place in America. Casey wants desperately to be rich -- or possibly, she just wants to be everything her parents are not. Whatever one's nationality or upbringing, it is a common thing among those in their twenties to struggle for identity. If I could tell Casey -- and every other twenty-something in the world -- something right now, it would be: Let it go. Stop fighting and enjoy each day. With time comes some sort of wisdom and grace, so allow time to flow. And for heaven's sake, follow your heart. You'll wish you did later on.
But of course, just as I would've ignored such advice when I was that age, so Casey struggles: with men, with her own morality, with money, and with a sort of sick pride that manages to sabotage her every attempt at making her life better.
Author Min Jin Lee writes with a delicate, almost spare hand, while showing us the perspective of nearly all the characters in the book. Lee says that she wanted to emulate the classics she most admired, such as Bronte, and I dare say she brings a modern touch to the style. I soon began to love it, although the head-switching initially threw me. If anything, it shows Lee's enormous grasp of social niceties, of the subtleties of social interaction, something so difficult to pull off.
While the book reads with a gentle flow, much like those 18th and 19th century classics that Lin adores, it manages to fascinate. I rooted for Casey all along, and I recognized those hallmarks of growing up in your twenties with a sad twitch: meeting the first love at a wedding after you've broken up, and he's there with his fiancee, or not understanding how to deal with a relationship in which things are going terribly wrong.
A strong main character and a vividly drawn minor cast, all set in the mysterious and yet mundane world of Korean immigrants, bring Free Food for Millionaires to life. Highly recommended.