Free Food for Millionaires
Min Jin Lee, Author . Warner $24.99 (576p) ISBN 978-0-446-5810
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.
Reviewed on: 01/22/2007