Someone asked me eons ago who my favorite writer was, as a writer (shoutout to Lindsey Filowitz, it was you). I didn’t have one, because I’d never thought of it. Well not beyond childhood, where Roald Dahl and Beverly Clearly ruled. Often I read books based on synopsis, not the author. From that moment on it stuck with me, were poets and musicians included? Could I say Jim Morrison? I made a point to read books with the author in mind. Now I have a few favorites and Min Jin Lee is very much included. I recently finished her 2007 debut novel, Free Food for Millionaires, which solidified her authority as a weaver of words.
Free Food for Millionaires takes place in 90’s New York City. Two weeks after protagonist Casey Han graduates from Princeton, she returns home to Elmhurst, Queens where her abusive, blue collar father pressures her into major life decisions. After a violent altercation she is kicked out, unyielding to his world views. Everything about Korean immigrant Casey is unique, from her height, to her credit crippling addiction to luxury. She seeks to maintain the lifestyle she’s experienced amongst affluent friends, but doesn’t know how to get there while maintaining her principles. She finds herself adrift trying to navigate adulthood. Too prideful to accept help, she makes life far more complicated than necessary. She can’t help but feel envy for her rich peers, who have a safety net that eludes her. Their lives fall short in other ways though.
Min Jin Lee immerses the reader in the lives of these perfectly flawed, colorful character’s that orbit Casey’s world. Over the span of years we watch the hard knocks of adulting turn their lives upside down, dealing with topics of: classism, addiction, adultery, parenthood, love, forgiveness, GOD, lust, loss and identity. Min Jin Lee be it this book, or Pachinko (Yesu Cristo, it still gets me bro), creates such complex, well written characters, so incredibly human, you can’t help but feel empathy for them despite their actions. A reminder that anything can happen, and you never know what secrets people take to their graves. I also love her perspective, imagery, florid use of language, and life observations. Have you read any of her work? Via: The Lost Library