Synopses & Reviews
It all starts when Ben Ryder Howes wife, whose parents emigrated from Korea, decides to repay her debt to them by buying them a deli to run. Howe, an editor at The Paris Review
, reluctantly agrees to help in the venture. By day, Howe commutes to The Paris Review
offices in George Plimptons apartment overlooking the East River, and at night heads to Brooklyn to slice cold cuts, peddle lottery tickets and Colt 45, and sell coffee in 8-ounce blue and gold cups bearing the logo “We are happy to serve you!”
The book follows the stores lifespan, starting a few months before the purchase and ending with the familys agonized decision to get out. Along the way, Howe allows digressions into the past, painting a cacophonous group portrait of two families from the Brooklyn ghetto to Seoul to Brahmin New England. The deli is where these cultures meet as Howe juxtaposes the two groups, outsiders versus insiders, new talent versus old money, the deli with The Paris Review. Owning the deli becomes a transformative experience for everyone involved as they struggle to keep the deli and themselves from bankruptcy while sorting out issues of class, intermarriage values, work and personal identity.
This sweet and funny tale of a preppy literary editor buying a Brooklyn deli with his Korean in-laws is about family, class, culture clash, and the quest for authentic experiences in an increasingly unreal city.
It starts with a simple gift, when Ben Ryder Howe's wife, the daughter of Korean immigrants, decides to repay her parents' self-sacrifice by buying them a store. Howe, an editor at the rarefied Paris Review, reluctantly agrees to go along. However, things soon become a lot more complicated. After the business struggles, Howe finds himself living in the basement of his in-laws' Staten Island home, commuting to the Paris Review offices in George Plimpton's Upper East Side townhouse by day, and heading to Brooklyn at night to slice cold cuts and peddle lottery tickets. The book follows the store's tumultuous lifespan, and along the way paints the portrait of an extremely unlikely partnership between characters across society, from the Brooklyn ghetto to Seoul to Puritan New England. Owning the deli becomes a transformative experience for everyone involved as they struggle to salvage the original gift — and the family — while sorting out issues of values, work and identity.
About the Author
BEN RYDER HOWE has written for The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly and Outside, and his work has been selected for Best American Travel Writing. He is a former senior editor of The Paris Review. He, his wife and their two children recently moved out of the basement of her family's house on Staten Island. This is his first book.