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Free Food for Millionairesby Min Jin Lee
Synopses & Reviews
Casey Han's four years at Princeton gave her many things, 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 on to their culture and their identity. Their daughter, on the other hand, has entered into rarified American society via scholarships. But after graduation, Casey sees the reality of having expensive habits without the means to sustain them.
As she navigates Manhattan, we see her life and the lives around her, 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 one's identity within changing communities in what is her remarkably assured debut.
"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." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Min Jin Lee's keen eye for class concerns and her confident, muscular writing about the conflicting pulls toward one's cultural heritage and the unknowable, wide-open future make Free Food for Millionaires a pleasure." Meg Wolitzer, The Position and Surrender, Dorothy
"With very broad strokes and great detail, Lee paints colorful three-dimensional characters and outlines intergenerational and cultural struggles brilliantly." Booklist
"What could have been a fascinating study of the conflicts facing young Koreans in 1990s America...is a flat footed disappointment." Library Journal
"Fitfully entertaining but not extraordinary." Kirkus Reviews
"Wise, generous in spirit, and hilariously incisive, Min Jin Lee's novel captures the raucous and deeply moving inner life of contemporary New York, and of the new America. Spanning the panorama of haves and have-nots, from the excluded to those who belong, Free Food for Millionaires stakes out new ground for 21st century American literature, territory both profoundly enlightening and utterly enjoyable." David Henry Hwang, M. Butterfly
"A marvelous page-turner, with well-burnished subplots, this novel gives the 21st Century what the 19th Century knew we needed most: a young heroine with a range of worldly options that are all more or less seductive and all more or less unacceptable. It's a wonderful book." Diane Middlebrook, Anne Sexton and Her Husband
"Free Food for Millionaires is the best novel I've read in a long time. I'm sad to be finished and I desperately miss Casey Han — a perfectly imperfect character whose loyalty, chutzpah and great hats make her someone I wish I knew in real life." Elisabeth Egan, Self, Contributing Books Editor
"Free Food for Millionaires by Min Jin Lee is an extraordinary book: totally engrossing, empathetic, realistic, romantic. Where did Min Jin Lee come from? How come she knows so much about people? How did she learn to write so well." Carla Cohen, Politics and Prose
About the Author
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. She then attended Georgetown Law School and worked as a lawyer for several years before leaving to write full time. She has received the NYFA Fellowship for Fiction, the Peden Prize from the Missouri Review for Best Story, and the Narrative Prize for New and Emerging Writer. Her work has also been featured on NPR's Selected Shorts and anthologized in To Be Real (Doubleday, 1995) and Breeder (Seal Press, 2001). She lives in New York with her husband and son.
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