Janice S. (Scotts Hill, TN)
Soy Sauce for Beginners
The title of the book in no way reflects the complexity of the issues covered by the author. From personal issues and choices of the main character, to family crisis situations, and cultural differences , the story line moves slowly on the beginning of the book, but picks up speed as you are drawn into the characters, and the complex issues presented. How we handle relationships, family , friends and co-workers, and define ourselves by the passion for work are all good discussion points. I understand after reading the book why the title was chosen, but am not sure that I would have purchased it based on the title.
It will make a good book club discussion, but I think the title needs some work!
Nancy L. (Zephyrhills, FL)
"Soy Sauce for Beginners" by Kirstin Chen is, at its root, a story about authenticity. Gretchen Lin, the main character, is on a journey to discover who she really is. Is she the San Francisco resident studying for an advanced degree in music who is fleeing a marriage gone wrong? Or is she the Singapore native, born into a wealthy family of soy sauce merchants? The other main character of the novel is the soy sauce itself, produced for many years in the same painstaking way, culminating in deep resonant flavor. Should Gretchen remain in Singapore to work for the family business? Or should she return to San Francisco to try and rebuild her marriage? Should manufacturing of the soy sauce be altered to speed up the process, bringing increased profits to the family? And, with faster production, would the soy sauce still be authentic? Gretchen and her family struggle with these questions in an easy to read story. "Soy Sauce for Beginners" is recommended for all who like a good family story as well as for foodies who are interested in reading about traditional, authentic food.
Cam G. (Murrells Inlet, SC)
Not so great...
I must be getting old because I found this book to be too "chick lit" for me. Gretchen, at least for the better half of the book, was unlikeable and self-centered. The best part of Soy Sauce for Beginners was learning how soy sauce was made!
Ann W. (New York, NY)
coming of age
I enjoyed the book because it was well written but not very compelling. Gretchen's struggle is self-absorbed and shallow. It may be typical of a culture where it nuance in not easily expressed. She did not notice others or question her assumptions until the end of the novel. It ended with not much depth of character analysis.
It was thoughtful as an discussion of soy sauce, artisanal or otherwise. However, the conflict between cousins was expected and too stereotyped.