“There was a debt owed to a person who gave you beauty and feeling.”

Min Jin Lee, Free Food for Millionaires

Context: One of the characters reflecting on listening to another character’s beautiful song.

This quote struck me because it’s exactly how I feel whenever I read a great piece of writing. It’s something I want to remember. I want to give thanks to all the writers, editors and publishers out there who continuously provide quality work.

Thank you.

“Competence can be a curse.”

Free Food for Millionaires by Min Jin Lee. 

This is the first book I finished in 2019. It’s also the first book review I am doing in this reworked version of an old website.

When I’m looking for a next book to read, I usually read the very first line and I go off of my first instinct. If the first line grabs me, I will read that book and finish it, regardless of how much it sucks afterwards.

Free Food did not suck. It was a delight to read.

I found the book at Tea House Books in Denmark, Western Australia during our most recent Christmas visit home. The bookstore itself has gone through a couple of different owners since the very first time I visited in 2010. I always liked browsing through small town bookshops because, unlike big city bookshops, they usually only have one copy of a book on display. It gives me the feeling that I’m getting a “one of a kind” book, even though that can’t possibly be the case.

Free Food  drew me in because the background of the main character was relatable to me. The MC, Casey, was a second generation immigrant in New York whose Korean parents were hard-working but strict. Overall the story was believable and interesting. I wanted to read the book to the end mainly because I wanted to find out what became of Casey.

The ending was not anything glorious, but satisfactory. The various storylines introduced with the cast of characters were all wrapped up pretty well, so there were no disappointing loose ends.

Free Food was set in New York City in the 1980’s and 1990’s. It was interesting to read about New York banker culture and how immigrant life melded with that.

Apart from Casey, there was a large cast of characters involved. The point of view switched between various characters so each of them were sympathetic in their own way; I got to really understand a character’s motivations and empathize, even if the character’s actions were not likable.

If I had to describe the novel in one sentence: It is a story about a girl’s struggle with self-identity and loving herself in a setting where she was taught conflicting ideas at home and out in the world.

The book was written in a way that read smoothly. The language and dialogue were elegant and that set the tone of the story.

I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this book to any serious readers as it’s one of those books that is fun and interesting to read, but not life-changing. For me it would be a casual beach novel and not something I would read again a second time, even though I did enjoy it the first time round.