Monday, July 14, 2008

Free Food for Millionaires Review

Free Food for Millionaires is a sprawling novel depicting the life of Casey Han, a first generation Korean immigrant who navigates the choppy waters of the New York investment banking world. Casey is the oldest daughter of Joseph and Leah, whose lives are split between running a large dry cleaner in midtown Manhattan and participating actively in their Catholic church. Through her hard work and good grades, Casey earns a fully-paid scholarship to Princeton, but she struggles to find her identity amongst all the old money. That struggle carries on after graduation as she begins her career.

I would have loved Free Food for Millionaires, if it had ended around the middle, around page 300. I'm a quick read, and I don't mind a hefty book, but it has to be worth my time. This novel started out with a gripping plot and well-drawn characters, even with the author's confusing point of view shifts. But the author did not know when to stop. She drew out the story by devoting chapters to minor characters such as Casey's mom Leah and Casey's friend Ella.

When I finally reached the end, it was anti-climactic, one of those endings, without giving too much away, that just peter out mid-scene, vaguely hinting at what the future might hold. It seemed that, after watching Casey struggle to make money and have a successful career for close to 600 pages, the author wanted us to conclude that she did not belong in that world and did not deserve love.

I was disappointed by Free Food for Millionaires. I loved getting a a glimpse of the investment banking world and of New York Korean culture. I enjoyed being reminded of the how hard it was to forge my own identity after college. But I wish the story had been tighter, more concise, and ended sooner.

You can also read my review at Dear Reader, and see other responses to it.

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