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.


  1. This being Halloween time, Becky, you might also want to check your neck for mysterious puncture wounds, and do a double-take if you start ordering your meat "bare and supple, with the intoxicating aroma of fresh vitality coursing within."

    (Kidding aside - medical stuff is no fun. Feel very better, very soon!)

    And thanks for the book rec!

  2. Oddly, Chris, this is not the first time someone has suggested I'm in stage one of turning into a vampire! I did think those marks were spider bites on my neck, but...

    Thanks for the laugh this morning. :)

  3. (Yes, I thought "Vampire-mode!" too...)

    The upside to this is that you probably soon will feel extremely energized and perky in all sorts of ways =) I´m sorry you´ve had such a rough time!


  4. I hope your health and energy levels will get better soon. *hugs*

    I came back from the wilderness again and dropped by to see how you're faring.

    Also: Happy Belated Birthday!

  5. Thank you, Asuqi and Duni. I'm sure I'll feel better soon and they MUAHAHAHAHAHAHA all hell will break loose. :)

  6. If it's iron deficiency anemia, then I suggest blackstrap molasses (and I'll happily send you God's Own Gingerbread Recipe, which packs enough of the stuff to give you all your daily iron -- and calcium -- in four scrumptilicious helpings). A tablespoon of blackstrap is good for about 20 percent of your RDA, if you can stomach a straight tablespoon of the stuff (or maybe put it in your tea?); do make sure it's blackstrap, though. Other kinds don't have nearly as much iron or calcium.

    I hope you're feeling brash and perky again soon!

  7. Hey Becky, just stopped by to catch up a little- Hope you're feeling better and getting your strength and energy back to where you want to be. I believe B12 helps with iron absorption, too.