Gretchen Lin leaves her heart (or at least her floundering marriage) in San Francisco, moves back to her childhood home in Singapore and finds herself face-to-face with the twin headaches she's avoided her entire adult life: her mother's drinking problem and the machinations of her father's artisanal soy sauce business. Surrounded by family, Gretchen struggles with the tension between personal ambition and filial duty, but still finds time to explore a new romance with the son of a client, an attractive man of few words.
When an old American friend comes to town, the two of them are pulled into the controversy surrounding Gretchen's cousin, the only male grandchild and the heir apparent to Lin's Soy Sauce. In the midst of increasing pressure from her father to remain permanently in Singapore - and pressure from her mother to do just the opposite - Gretchen must decide whether she will return to her marriage and her graduate studies at the San Francisco Conservatory, or sacrifice everything and join her family's crusade to spread artisanal soy sauce to the world.
With echoes of Forgotten Country and Girl in Translation, Soy Sauce for Beginners reveals the triumphs and sacrifices that shape one woman's search for a place to call home. Much as Sideways provides a glimpse into the world of winemaking, Soy Sauce for Beginners reveals the unexpected art and tradition behind the brewing of a much-used but unsung condiment. The result is a foodie love story that will give readers a hearty appreciation for family loyalty and fresh starts.
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"Chen's novel is most enjoyable as a lighthearted glimpse into the rapidly changing culture and economy of Singapore, and into the lives of the young people hoping to find their future there." - Publishers Weekly
"East or West, music studies or the family business, authentic soysauce or a cheaper modern alternative? These are the choices facing droopy Gretchen Lin in a pleasant if generic tale of roots and romance." - Kirkus
"Kirstin Chen's debut is a delicious page-turning treat. Chen captures the zeitgeist of Singapore's new generation in an engrossing, intimately layered tale of love, family, and the discovery of one's true calling." - Kevin Kwan, author of Crazy Rich Asians
"Soy Sauce for Beginners is an engaging story about a young woman's journey through love and friendship, business and family as she seeks her own place in the world. A satisfying and insightful novel." - Jill McCorkle, author of Life After Life
"Kirstin Chen evokes with wonderful brio the conflicts of a family business, and of a family...A sparkling debut." - Margot Livesey, author of The Flight of Gemma Hardy
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