Free Food for Millionaires

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Overview

"Competence can be a curse." So begins Min Jin Lee's epic novel about class, society, and identity. Casey Han's four years at Princeton have given her many things: "a refined diction, an enviable golf handicap, a popular white boyfriend, an agnostic's closeted passion for reading the Bible, and a magna cum laude degree in economics. But no job and a number of bad habits."
Casey's parents, who live in Queens, are Korean immigrants working in a dry cleaner, desperately trying to hold onto their culture and ...
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Overview

"Competence can be a curse." So begins Min Jin Lee's epic novel about class, society, and identity. Casey Han's four years at Princeton have given her many things: "a refined diction, an enviable golf handicap, a popular white boyfriend, an agnostic's closeted passion for reading the Bible, and a magna cum laude degree in economics. But no job and a number of bad habits."
Casey's parents, who live in Queens, are Korean immigrants working in a dry cleaner, desperately trying to hold onto their culture and identity. Their daughter, on the other hand, has entered into the upper echelon of rarified American society via scholarships. But after graduation, Casey's trust-fund friends see only opportunity and choices while Casey sees the reality of having expensive habits without the means to sustain them. As Casey navigates Manhattan, we see her life and the lives of those around her: her sheltered mother, scarred father, her friend Ella who's always been the good Korean girl, Ella's ambitious Korean husband and his Caucasian mistress, Casey's white fiancé, and then her Korean boyfriend, all culminating in a portrait of New York City and its world of haves and have-nots.
FREE FOOD FOR MILLIONAIRES offers up a fresh exploration of the complex layers we inhabit both in society and within ourselves. Inspired by 19th century novels such as Vanity Fair and Middlemarch, Min Jin Lee examines maintaining identity within changing communities. This is a remarkably assured debut from a writer to watch.
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Editorial Reviews

Liesl Schillinger
In Korean tradition, there’s a complicated emotion called han which, by general consensus, applies chiefly to women. A recently published Korean commonplace book defines it as “resentment, sorrow, sense of loss and hardship, stifled passion and love, or the frustration of the downtrodden.” A woman who manages to overcome these obstacles is said to have “resolved her han.” In 21st-century American terms, this is what Oprah would call “living your best life.”In her accomplished and engrossing first novel, the Yale-and-Georgetown-law-educated writer Min Jin Lee tells the story of an angry young Korean-American woman, raised by status-conscious immigrant parents in Queens, who falls out with them after she graduates from Princeton. Not only does this heroine harbor han, she embodies it — her name is Casey Han.
— The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

In her noteworthy debut, Lee filters through a lively postfeminist perspective a tale of first-generation immigrants stuck between stodgy parents and the hip new world. Lee's heroine, 22-year-old Casey Han, graduates magna cum laude in economics from Princeton with a taste for expensive clothes and an "enviable golf handicap," but hasn't found a "real" job yet, so her father kicks her out of his house. She heads to her white boyfriend's apartment only to find him in bed with two sorority girls. Next stop: running up her credit card at the Carlyle Hotel in New York City. Casey's luck turns after a chance encounter with Ella Shim, an old acquaintance. Ella gives Casey a place to stay, while Ella's fiancé gets Casey a "low pay, high abuse" job at his investment firm and Ella's cousin Unu becomes Casey's new romance. Lee creates a large canvas, following Casey as she shifts between jobs, careers, friends, mentors and lovers; Ella and Ted as they hit a blazingly rocky patch; and Casey's mother, Leah, as she belatedly discovers her own talents and desires. Though a first-novel timidity sometimes weakens the narrative, Lee's take on contemporary intergenerational cultural friction is wide-ranging, sympathetic and well worth reading. (May)

Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal

Newly graduated from Princeton, twenty something Casey Han is back home with her hard-working parents in Manhattan, but the ill-tempered Casey chafes at their old-world ways and quickly moves out. In this oversized saga of New York yuppies, she spends the next four years trying to find her way, behaving badly to all who care about her and living the high life without the financial means. What could have been a fascinating study of the conflicts facing young Koreans in 1990s America—loyalty to their families, corporate racism, and the irresistible gimme glitter lure of the sophisticated urban lifestyle—is a flat footed disappointment. Over explanation of every feeling and a flood of distracting brand-name details unnecessarily pad this tale. Vulgar language, wooden dialog, and behavior both shallow and improbable leave the reader with the impression that little matters to Lee's large cast of characters but libido. The recipient of an impressive list of both fiction and nonfiction writing awards, Lee needs to find and trust her voice. Not recommended. [See Prepub Alert, LJ1/07.]
—Beth E. Andersen

Kirkus Reviews
Lee's debut is an epic-scale hybrid of the 19th-century novel (Middlemarch is oft-cited here) and Bonfire of the Vanities, but it lacks Eliot's literary polish and Wolfe's exuberance. Casey Han is a recent Princeton graduate, daughter of Korean-born owners of a Manhattan laundry who want their daughter both to cleave to tradition and fulfill the immigrants' ethic of success. But rebellious Casey has rubbed shoulders too long with the rich and privileged, and she finds herself back in New York City with "no job and a number of bad habits." One bad habit is her white Master-of-the-Universe boyfriend, whom she catches in flagrante with two LSU coeds; another is a fatal taste for the posh life, especially haute couture. In a terrifying first scene, Casey quarrels with her father, who strikes her hard across the face, then banishes her. The rest of the book shows Casey navigating her 20s: There are erotic entanglements, employment woes, the delicate negotiations of family life. Casey's an appealing heroine, but the book strays from her story: Lee adopts an omniscient voice that swoops into the consciousnesses of dozens of characters, often unpersuasively. Few minor characters rise above stereotype or expectation. Still, some elements-Casey's struggles with faith, her tempestuous relationship with her mentor/benefactress, a department-store mogul-are handled with a subtlety that bodes well for future books. Fitfully entertaining but not extraordinary. Agent: Bill Clegg/William Morris Agency
From the Publisher
"Free Food for Millionaires stakes out new ground for twenty-first-century American literature, territory both profoundly enlightening and utterly enjoyable." —-David Henry Hwang, playwright, M. Butterfly
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780091796181
  • Publisher: Gardners Books
  • Publication date: 8/2/2007

Meet the Author

Min Jin Lee

Min Jin Lee went to Yale College where she was awarded both the Henry Wright Prize for Nonfiction and the James Ashmun Veech Prize for Fiction.

In addition to narrating audiobooks, Shelly Frasier has appeared in many independent film and theater projects in Arizona and southern California, and she has developed character voices for animation projects and done voice-over work for commercials.

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Read an Excerpt

Free Food for Millionaires


By Min Jin Lee

Grand Central Publishing

Copyright © 2007 Min Jin Lee
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-446-58108-0


Chapter One

Options

Competence can be a curse.

As a capable young woman, Casey Han felt compelled to choose respectability and success. But it was glamour and insight that she craved. A Korean immigrant who'd grown up in a dim, bluecollar neighborhood in Queens, she'd hoped for a bright, glittering life beyond the workhorse struggles of her parents, who managed a Manhattan dry cleaner.

Casey was unusually tall for a Korean, nearly five feet eight, slender, and self-conscious about what she wore. She kept her black hair shoulder length, fastidiously powdered her nose, and wore winecolored lipstick without variation. To save money, she wore her eyeglasses at home, but outside she wore contact lenses to correct her nearsightedness. She did not believe she was pretty but felt she had something-some sort of workable sex appeal. She admired feminine modesty and looked down at women who tried to appear too sexy. For a girl of only twenty-two, Casey Han had numerous theories of beauty and sexuality, but the essence of her philosophy was that allure trumped obvious display. She'd read that Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis advised a woman to dress like a column, and Casey never failed to follow that instruction.

Seated in the spacious linoleum-covered kitchen of her parents' rent-controlled two-bedroom in Elmhurst, Casey looked out ofplace in her white linen shirt and white cotton slacks-dressed as if she were about to have a gin and tonic brought to her on a silver tray. Next to her at the Formica-topped table, her father, Joseph Han, could've easily passed for her grandfather. He filled his tumbler with ice for his first whiskey of the evening. An hour earlier, he'd returned from a Saturday of sorting laundry at the Sutton Place drop shop that he ran for Mr. Kang, a wealthy Korean who owned a dozen dry-cleaning stores. Joseph and his daughter Casey did not speak to each other. Casey's younger sister, Tina-a Bronx Science Westinghouse finalist, vice president of the Campus Christian Crusade at MIT, and a premed-was their father's favorite. A classical Korean beauty, Tina was the picture of the girls' mother, Leah, in her youth.

Leah bustled about cooking their first family dinner in months, singing hymns while Tina chopped scallions. Although not yet forty, Leah had prematurely gray hair that obscured her smooth pale brow. At seventeen, she'd married Joseph, who was then thirty-six and a close friend of her eldest brother. On their wedding night, Casey was conceived, and two years later, Tina was born.

Now it was a Saturday night in June, a week after Casey's college graduation. Her four years at Princeton had given her a refined diction, an enviable golf handicap, wealthy friends, a popular white boyfriend, an agnostic's closeted passion for reading the Bible, and a magna cum laude degree in economics. But she had no job and a number of bad habits.

Virginia Craft, Casey's roommate of four years, had tried to convince her to give up the habit that taxed her considerably while she sat next to her brooding father. At the moment, Casey would've bartered her body for a cigarette. The promise of lighting one on the building roof after dinner was all that kept her seated in the kitchen-her bare foot tapping lightly on the floor. But the college graduate had other problems insoluble by a smoke. Since she had no job, she'd returned to her folks' two-bedroom on Van Kleeck Street Seventeen years earlier, in the year of the bicentennial, the family of four had immigrated to America. And Leah's terror of change had kept them in the same apartment unit. It all seemed a bit pathetic.

The smoking, among other things, was corroding Casey's sense of being an honest person. She prided herself on being forthright, though she often dodged her parents. Her biggest secret was Jay Currie-her white American boyfriend. On the previous Sunday night after having some very nice sex, Jay had suggested, his elbow crooked over his pillow and head cradled in his hand, "Move in with me. Consider this, Miss Han: sexual congress on tap." Her parents also had no idea that she wasn't a virgin and that she'd been on the pill since she was fifteen. Being at home made Casey anxious, and she continually felt like patting down her pockets for matches. Consequently, she found herself missing Princeton-even the starchy meals at Charter, her eating club. But nostalgia would do her no good. Casey needed a plan to escape Elmhurst.

Last spring, against Jay's advice, Casey had applied to only one investment banking program. She'd learned, after all the sign-up sheets were filled, that Kearn Davis was the bank that every econ major wanted in 1993. Yet she reasoned that her grades were superior to Jay's, and she could sell anything. At the Kearn Davis interview, Casey greeted the pair of female interviewers wearing a yellow silk suit and cracked a Nancy Reagan joke, thinking it might make a feminist connection. The two women were wearing navy and charcoal wool, and they let Casey hang herself in fifteen minutes flat. Showing her out, they waved, not bothering to shake her hand.

There was always law school. She'd managed to get into Columbia. But her friends' fathers were beleaguered lawyers-their lives unappealing. Casey's lawyer customers at Sabine's, the department store where she'd worked weekends during the school year, advised her, "For money-go to B school. To save lives, med." The unholy trinity of law, business, and medicine seemed the only faith in town. It was arrogant, perhaps rash, for an immigrant girl from the boroughs to want to choose her own trade. Nevertheless, Casey wasn't ready to relinquish her dream, however vague, for a secure profession. Without telling her father, she wrote Columbia to defer a year.

Her mother was singing a hymn in her remarkable voice while she ladled scallion sauce over the roasted porgy. Leah's voice trilled at the close of the verse, "Waking or sleeping, thy presence my light," and then with a quiet inhale, she began, "Be thou my wisdom, and thou my true word ..." She'd left the store early that morning to shop and to cook her daughters' favorite dishes. Tina, her baby, had returned on Thursday night, and now both her girls were home. Her heart felt full, and she prayed for Joseph to be in a good mood. She eyeballed the whiskey level in the jug-size bottle of Dewar's. It had not shifted much from the night before. In their twenty-two years of marriage, Leah had discovered that it was better when Joseph had a glass or two with his dinner than none. Her husband wasn't a drunk-the sort who went to bars, fooled around, or lost his salary envelope. He was a hard worker. But without his whiskey, he couldn't fall sleep. One of her sisters-in-law had told her how to keep a man content: "Never deny a man his bop, sex, and sleep."

Leah carried the fish to the table, wearing a blue apron over her plum-colored housedress. At the sight of Casey pouring her second glass of water, Leah clamped her lips, giving her soft, oval face a severe appearance. Mr. Jun, the ancient choir director, had pointed out this anxiety tic to her prior to her solos, shouting, "Show us your joy! You are singing to God!"

Tina, of course, the one who noticed everything, thought Casey was just asking for it. Her own mind had been filled with the pleasant thoughts of her boyfriend, Chul, whom she'd promised to phone that night, but even so, she could feel Casey's restlessness. Maybe her sister would consider how much trouble their mother had gone through to make dinner.

It was the water drinking-this seemingly innocent thing. For always, Joseph believed that the girls should eat heartily at the table, grateful for the food and for the care given to it, but Casey habitually picked at her dinner, and he blamed Casey's not eating on her excessive water consumption. Casey denied this accusation, but her father was on the mark. Back in junior high school, Casey had read in a fashion magazine that if you drank three glasses of water before a meal, you'd eat less. It took great effort on Casey's part to wear a size 6 or smaller; after all, she was a girl with a large frame. Her weight also shifted by five pounds depending on how much she smoked. Her mother was thin from perpetual activity, and her younger sister, who was short like her father, had a normal build, and Tina disapproved of dieting. A brilliant student of both physics and philosophy, Tina had once scolded Casey when she was on Weight Watchers: "The world is awash in hunger. How could you cause your own?"

Casey's water drinking at the table was not lost on her father.

At five feet three, Joseph was compact, yet his rich, booming voice gave him the sound of a bigger man. He was bald except for a wisp of baby fuzz on the back of his head, and his baldness did not grieve him except in the winters, when he had to wear a gray felt fedora to protect his head and large-lobed ears. He was only fifty-eight but looked older, more like a vigorous man of seventy, especially beside his young wife. Leah was his second wife. His first, a girl his age whom he'd loved deeply, died from tuberculosis after a year of marriage and before she bore him any children. Joseph adored his second wife, perhaps more so because of his loss. He appreciated Leah's good health and her docile Christian nature, and he was still attracted to her pretty face and delicate form, which belied her resilience. He made love to her every Friday evening. She had given him two daughters, though the elder looked nothing like her mother.

Casey drained her water glass and rested it on the table. Then she reached for the pitcher.

"I'm not Rockefeller, you know," Joseph said.

Casey's father didn't look at her when he said this, but he was addressing her. There was no one else in the room who needed to hear how she didn't have a trust fund. Right away, Leah and Tina moved from the counter to their seats at the table, hoping to dissipate the tension. Leah opened her mouth to speak but hesitated.

Casey refilled her glass with water.

"I can't support you forever," he said. "Your father is not a millionaire."

Casey's first thought was, And whose fault is that?

Tina knew when not to speak. She unfolded her thin paper napkin and spread it across her lap. In her mind, she ticked off the Ten Commandments-this thing she did when nervous; and when she felt particularly anxious, she recited the Apostle's Creed and the Lord's Prayer back to back.

"When I was your age, I sold kimbop on the streets. Not one piece"-Joseph raised his voice dramatically-"I couldn't afford to eat one piece of what I was selling." He lost himself in the memory of standing in a dusty corner of Pusan's marketplace, waiting for paying customers while shooing away the street urchins who were hungrier than he was.

Using two spoons, Leah filleted the fish from its skeleton and served Joseph first. Casey wondered why her mother never stopped these self-indulgent reveries. Growing up, she'd heard countless monologues about her father's privations. At the end of 1950, a temporary passage to the South had been secured for the sixteen-year-old Joseph-the baby of a wealthy merchant family-to prevent his conscription in the Red Army. But a few weeks after young Joseph landed in Pusan, the southernmost tip of the country, the war split the nation in two, and he never again saw his mother, six elder brothers, and two sisters, the family estate near Pyongyang. As a war refugee, the once pampered teenager ate garbage, slept on cold beaches, and stayed in filthy camps as easy prey for the older refugees who'd lost their sense and morals. Then in 1955, two years after the war ended, his young bride died from TB. With no money or support, he'd abandoned his hopes to be a medical doctor. Having missed college, he ran errands for tips from American soldiers, ignored his persistent nightmares, worked as a food vendor, and taught himself English from a dictionary. Before coming to America with his wife and two little girls, Joseph labored for twenty years as a foreman at a lightbulb factory outside of Seoul. Leah's oldest brother, Hoon-the first friend Joseph made in the South-had sponsored their immigration to New York and given them their American first names. Then, two years later, Hoon died of pancreatic cancer. Everyone seemed to die on Joseph. He was the last remnant of his clan and had no male heirs.

Casey wasn't indifferent to her father's pain. But she'd decided she didn't want to hear about it anymore. His losses weren't hers, and she didn't want to hold them. She was in Queens, and it was 1993. But at the table it was 1953, and the Korean War refused to end.

Joseph was gearing up to tell the story of his mother's white jade brooch, the last item he'd possessed of hers. Of course he'd had to sell it to buy medicine for his first wife, who ended up dying anyway. Yes, yes, Casey wanted to say, war was brutal and poverty cruel, but enough already. She'd never suffer the way he did. Wasn't that the point of them coming to America, after all?

Casey rolled her eyes, and Leah wished she wouldn't do that. She didn't mind these stories, really. Leah imagined Joseph's first wife as a kind of invalid girl saint. There were no photographs of her, but Leah felt she must have been pretty-all romantic heroines were. A lady who died so young (only twenty) would have been kind and good and beautiful, Leah thought. Joseph's stories were how he kept his memories alive. He'd lost everyone, and she knew from the fitful way he slept that the Japanese occupation and the war returned to him at night. His mother and his first wife were the ones he had loved the most as a young man. And Leah knew what it was to grieve; her own mother had died when she was eight. It was possible to long for the scent of your mother's skin, the feel of her coarse chima fabric against your face; to lie down for the evening and shut your eyes tight and wish to see her sitting there at the edge of your pallet at dawn. Her mother had died from consumption, so she and Joseph's first wife were entwined in Leah's imagination.

Joseph smiled ruefully at Tina. "The night before I left on the ship, my mother sewed twenty gold rings in the lining of my coat with her own hand. She had these thick rheumatic fingers, and the servant girls usually did the sewing, but ..." He lifted his right hand in the air as if he could make his mother's hand appear in place of his own, then clasped the right one with his left. "She wrapped each ring with cotton batting so there'd be no noise when I moved around." Joseph marveled at his mother's thoughtfulness, recalling sharply how every time he had to sell a ring, he'd unstitch the white blanket thread that his mother had sewn into the coat fabric with her heavy needle. "She said to me, 'Jun-oh-ah, sell these whenever you need to. Eat good hot food. When you return, my boy, we shall have such a feast.'" The yellowish whites of Joseph's eyes welled up.

"She unclasped the brooch from her choggori, then she handed it to me. You see, I didn't understand. I thought I was supposed to return home in a few days. Three or four, at the most." His voice grew softer. "She didn't expect me to sell the pin. The rings, yes, but not ..."

Casey drew breath, then exhaled. It must have been the thirtieth time she'd heard this tale. She made a face. "I know. Not the pin," she said.

Aghast, Tina nudged her sister's knee with her own.

"What did you say?" Joseph narrowed the slant of his small, elegant eyes. His sad expression grew cold.

"Nothing," Casey said. "Nothing."

Leah pleaded silently with a look, hoping Casey would restrain herself. But her daughter refused to notice her.

Joseph picked up his tumbler for a drink. He wanted to stay with the memory of his mother, the leaf green silk of her jacket, the cool whiteness of the pin. He'd never forget the day he left the jeweler with the bit of money he got in exchange for the pin, his hasty walk to the herbalist to buy the foul-smelling twigs and leaves that never cured his wife.

Wanting to create some distraction, Leah removed her apron and then folded it conspicuously. "Tina, would you pray for us?" she asked.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Free Food for Millionaires by Min Jin Lee Copyright © 2007 by Min Jin Lee. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 46 )
Rating Distribution

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 46 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 24, 2008

    I love love love this Book

    I loved this book. I couldn't put it down, and with bated breath I turned the pages for the upcoming drama....

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 9, 2008

    A reviewer

    Though this book was written with an Asian American experience in mind, and has done an excellent job of doing so, Free Food for Millionaires is a book about New York and about those why are trying to make in the city. The quintessential New Yorker if there every was one. The book makes honest observations about Asian Americans without sounding preachy or groveling for sympathy. This is not a 'Please try to understand us' type of book. This is an honest and entertaining book that just tell it like it is.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 14, 2008

    I LOVED THIS BOOK!

    Even though the book was over 500 pages and it took me about 2 weeks to read it, I didn't want it to end. Lee is a very talented writer. I am not a Korean American or young, but I do live in Manhattan and I enjoyed all facets of this story. In fact, I've recommended it to my daughter!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 18, 2010

    Great exposure of culture of korean girls growing up in the states

    Great exposure of culture of korean girls growing up in the states

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 2, 2012

    Best book written by korean american author.

    Highly recommend it.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 25, 2008

    A reviewer

    i was first drawn to the book for a refreshing perspective but within the first pages, found it yet another cliche coming of age book with a protagonist that was exceptionally annoying in her britney spears-esque persona

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 12, 2008

    A reviewer

    I would actually give this a 3 1/2 but that wasn't an option. The first half of the book, I was enthralled and thought it was a real 'find.' When I catch myself thinking about the characters during non-reading times as if they are real people, I know the author has done something right. But as it wore on, I wasn't so enchanted. She tends to go into detail on every person who plays a role, however small. There were so many subplots going on, it could have easily been made into three books. I do agree with the reviewer who suggested it would make a great TV mini-series. I also agree with the reviewer who gave it a 1 that the characters are two-dimensional. Casey's basic personality never really changes from beginning to end, and she began to grate on my nerves. Ditto with Ella and Casey's mother. Also, in the second half it seemed to devolve into a soap opera genre, as if Lee were trying to cram all possible social and moral situations into her story--the affair between Casey's mother and the choir director and subsequent miscarriage, for example. Finally at the end everything is quicky and neatly tied up, 'happily ever after' but not realistic. Still, it was a terrific first effort by Lee, and for awhile it gave me hours of pleasure.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 14, 2008

    One of the best books that i've ever read.

    Min Jin Lee is a talented writer. I cannot wait to read her next novel.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 19, 2007

    Oustanding!

    I was so disapointed when I finished it because the book was so well written! The author is so talented, I hope she writes another one quickly!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 12, 2007

    A reviewer

    I didn't want to stop reading this book. It drew me in and I couldn't seem to stop reading it. I want to know what happens to the characters. A sequel would be wonderful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 5, 2007

    Engrossing Read!

    This book was multi-faceted and it was a truly enjoyable book. This is a must read! And I was sad when I finished the book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 20, 2007

    A reviewer

    I was very impressed with this first time author and her in depth grasp of people and their individual way of coping with their particular world. To be able to grasp each individual and their world is a mark of a true writer. Also a terrific book to read to understand the Wall Street world!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 29, 2007

    A reviewer

    Min Jin Lee's Free Food for Millionaires is a remarkable book. It is both incredibly compelling as storytelling-- I couldn't put it down--and it has layers upon layers of metaphor, cultural commentary and literary references (from Dante to the Bible) for those who want to look deeper. Any English professor (or book club leader) looking for literature that will inspire endless analysis--while entertaining readers with plenty of sex, humor and intrigue--need look no further. I was left hoping for a sequel. The characters are so colorfully and richly drawn that they come alive. The reader becomes completely invested in them and can't help but want to know about their futures. I know the Ivy League/Wall Street world she describes, and she captures it to perfection. While I generally prefer books to film or TV adaptations, this is tailor-made for an HBO series, and it would be brilliant.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Great storytelling

    In Queens, her Korean born father Joseph thinks it is time for his Americanized twenty two years old daughter Casey Han, a recent Princeton graduate, to find a job while also demanding she follow the old country tradition. In anger, because of her disrespect for him, he slaps her and kicks Casey out of the house. With her economics degree in hand and her affluent upper crust lifestyle, Casey goes to her boyfriend's apartment, but he is to busy with a ménage de trois. She moves into Manhattan¿s Carlyle Hotel although she will have problems paying off the credit card tab that she runs up there.-------------- However, the recent graduate¿s luck changes when she meets old friend Ella Shim. Ella allows Casey to move in with her while her fiancé manages to get her work at his investment firm in which the pay stinks and the abuse rolls downhill into the ooze beneath the food chain plopping onto her. Casey also dates Ella's cousin Unu.------------------- This is a terrific look at the American melting pot that assimilates second generations so much so that the gap between them and the immigration generation is wider than the Pacific Ocean. The story line is first rate when Casey is front and center even as she deals with stereotypical characters like her father and her friends. When the plot turns towards making its anecdotal premise into a sweeping generalization by enabling the audience to see inside the heads of much of the ensemble the assertion feels forced and loses steam. Still readers will enjoy this strong character study especially when Min Jin Lee focuses on the Americanization of Casey.----------------- Harriet Klausner

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 19, 2007

    A Moving Novel of Life

    This book had me hooked from the very first chapter, when we watch as fresh-out-of-college Casey gets slapped repeatedly by her father for speaking back to him. Min Jin Lee has written a deeply intense novel about class struggles and race, money and love, against the backdrop of NYC. Hearing the thoughts and reasonings inside every character's head only serves to enhance the experience. It makes for an intimate knowledge of why people do the things they do and say the things they say. And while Casey can sometimes be utterly unloveable, the secondary characters of Ella, Tina, Leah, and even Unu fill in the gaps and hold your attention tight, right until the end. Highly recommended.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 12, 2012

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 28, 2008

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 5, 2009

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 20, 2012

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 19, 2010

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