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Free Food for Millionaires Paperback

3.6 out of 5 stars 103 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Accomplished and engrossing."―New York Times Book Review

"The best novel I've read in a long time. I'm sad to be finished and I desperately miss Casey Han."―SELF

"A noteworthy debut...Lee's take on contemporary intergenerational cultural friction is wide-ranging, sympathetic and well worth reading."―Publishers Weekly

"Ambitious and compulsively readable. She aims for the breadth of Balzac and the moral depth of Middlemarch."―San Francisco Chronicle

"A true page-turner, with a Korean American protagonist and a compelling plot involving the universal clash of cultures, adultery, and class distinction."―Chicago Sun-Times

"Featuring subtly drawn characters and sensitive to the nuances of race and class, FREE FOOD is a first-rate read--a book you finish feeling certain the lives inside will go on long after the final page."―People

"This big, beguiling book has all the distinguishing marks of a Great American novel."―The Times (London)

"Lee draws in the reader with likeably human, multidimensional characters and a subtly shifting, unpredictable plot."―The Washington Post

"An astounding, remarkable, readable debut from a talented writer."―The Washington Times

"A stirring debut novel . . . Not since Jhumpa Lahiri's The Namesake has an author so exquisitely evoked what it's like to be an immigrant, and more specifically the children of immigrants, in our vastly competitive and socially delineated culture . . . vastly ambitious and mesmerizing...when the novel ends, readers will long for another 560 pages so they can extend their love affair with Casey and Min Jin Lee, her amazingly talented creator."―USA Today

"A sweeping story of first-generation Korean Americans . . . With very broad strokes and great detail, Lee paints colorful three-dimensional characters and outlines intergenerational and cultural struggles brilliantly."―Booklist

"Impressive . . . a detailed vivid tapestry . . . offers us astute insights into the plights, challenges, and successes of a unique generation of new American immigrants."―St. Louis Post-Dispatch

"An immersion into a fully realized and beautifully written world . . . Lee gently but firmly pushes the genre in a more modern direction, and in the process manages to create her own niche in the literary world."―BookPage

"A terrific debut novel . . . reminiscent of another ambitious New York novel about class collision, Tom Wolfe's Bonfire of the Vanities . . .the pleasure of reading this sprawling novel derives from the old-fashioned thrill of watching the wheel of fortune slowly turn for various characters . . . In the Victorian-inflected saga of Casey Han and her friends, Lee has given readers more than just Elizabeth Bennett tricked out in a Korean hanbok, she's tweaked venerable nineteenth-century fictional forms to suit the story of yet another new immigrant group claiming New York City as its own."―Fresh Air, NPR

"New and fresh . . . a fantastically fun story . . . a smart, sassy, wild ride . . . reads like a mix of a slightly less frenetic Jay McInerny and an equally sardonic Tom Perrotta, all wrapped in the fast-paced genre perfected by Tom Wolfe."―Chattanooga Times Free Press

"A big, ambitious first novel . . . Min Jin Lee, who is both wise and clever, deftly stage-manages a vast and varied cast of characters . . . all stumbling in their pursuit of the American dream. She makes the reader eager to discover where their errant quests will lead them."―Lynne Sharon Schwartz, author of The Writing on the Wall

"Echoes of Thackeray's Vanity Fair."―Sacramento Bee

"A terrific look at the American melting pot that assimilates second generations . . . Readers will enjoy this strong character study especially when Min Jin Lee focuses on the Americanization of Casey."―Midwest Book Review

"A big, juicy, coming-of-age novel . . . definitely belongs in this summer's beach bag."―Entertainment Weekly

"Engrossing and illuminating . . . a panoramic portrait of contemporary Korean Americans and their 'white boy' colleagues, lovers, and friends."―Alix Kates Shulman, author of Memoirs of an Ex-Prom Queen and Drinking the Rain

"A terrific writer."―Beverly Hills Courier

"Assimilation. Independence. Love. Betrayal. Class. Race. Sex. It's all in there. And reading FREE FOOD FOR MILLIONAIRES will, in the words of another writer to whom Lee has been compared, be a 'far, far better thing' than you've ever done."―Day to Day, NPR

"A page turner with a trenchant theme."―Washington City Paper --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From AudioFile

When the listener learns that Korean-American Casey Han carries a copy of George Eliots MIDDLEMARCH around in her bag, it become clear that this is more than chick lit about a career girl in the big city. Suddenly, the jobs, clothes, and lifestyle Casey craves represent issues of class and assimilation. Shelly Frasiers adept reading of this thoughtful audiobook eloquently raises questions about American social strata much in the way Eliots work did in nineteenth-century England. Casey is a well-educated girl from a modest immigrant family who is constantly aware of the cultural differences that comprise her life. Frasier keeps Casey honest with her no-nonsense performance. L.B.F. © AudioFile 2007, Portland, Maine-- Copyright © AudioFile, Portland, Maine --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 592 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 8991684467
  • ISBN-13: 978-8991684461
  • ASIN: B0029LHX2G
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (103 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,415,150 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Elizabeth Hendry VINE VOICE on August 10, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Free Food for Millionaires is an excellent novel about a young, bright daughter of immigrant parents, Casey, a young woman full of potential, just graduated from Princeton in the mid-1990s. She has everything, or seems to, but can't quite realize the value in what she has. Min Jin Lee does an excellent job of conveying the New York City of the oversmart and overprivileged of that time. The title, "Free Food for Millionaires", is a reference to the free lunch provided periodically at an investment bank during that time. It's a perfect summary of the worlds Casey lives in--the striving world of her parents and the overprivileged one of her Princeton classmates, where peoples needs and wants are seemingly either denied and oversupplied. Happiness is never full--something is always missing. That lack of perfection makes this a strong novel. Lee does some interesting things with her characters--they and their stories take some unexpected turns. The novel ultimately lacks that special something to make it great--nothing compels the reader to keep reading. Casey herself, while her story is intersting, is a bit of a cold fish. The novel is intelligently written but Han jumps from one character's perspective to another, sometimes within the same paragraph, which makes the narrative a bit jumpy at times. Overall, though, this is an enjoyable read, full of flawed and human characters. This one would probably be a perfect book club read--it will give readers much to discuss.
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Format: Hardcover
Min Jin Lee's first novel is a wonder to sink intoæand be warned, once you start, it'll be hard to stop until you're done with this dense, richly told story of interweaving characters trying to find themselves in the supposed melting pot that is New York. Starting with fresh-out-of-college Casey Han, we meet the first of many who are struggling to figure out their place in the world. In Casey's case, this starts with her place in her family, and for talking back to her Korean father, she gets a slap across the face that catapults her out of the warmth of her family and into the world, learning the hard way about love, betrayal, jobs, Wall Street, and fidelity. The slapping scene seems to tilt around the room as Lee shows us each person's wishes as they unfold, making what could seem a horrific act one much more understandable. In Lee's hands, each character, no matter how small, gets to have their say, their slice of life, their point of view explained.

It's to Lee's credit that she, as the storyteller, doesn't judge, but lets the reader draw their own conclusions about the values and choices each character makes. From Casey's traditional parents (even though we find out what lurks beneath their quiet mannerisms) to her gambler boyfriend and horny but likable boss, Lee paints a world where right and wrong blend and blur, stripping down these characters' lives until it's clear just how complex their inner turmoil and joy really are.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As a Korean American male in my early 30's and also in the Investment Banking industry I picked up this book with much curiosity and anticipation. I have to say at the end of it, my thoughts were mixed. In my life, I've lived in the environment that both the author and the main character have gone through- Korean American church life, demanding academics, traditional parents and the rush to find a reputable profession after college. In my time I've known my share of archetypes in the mold of Casey Han, Ted Kim, Joseph Han, Unu Shim and yes even the ultra innocent, tragically beautiful, but ultimately naiveté and played like a fiddle Ella Shim. These caricatures not only exist in our community, but are also recognizable and realistic.

The first half of the book I thought Lee was building up to something quite interesting, perhaps accomplishing something groundbreaking like Chang Rae Lee did in his book "Native Speaker." However, the second half of the book devolved into something that didn't say anything really and was just fodder for gossip talk. Although, there were plenty of flawed characters in this book, it seems as if the Korean Americans, both men and women, were the most dysfunctional people. The only two Korean Americans that had the best values and most consistent personalities, Ellas's father and Casey's sister, were the most underdeveloped characters. The more drama you had in your life, the more words Ms. Lee devoted to developing your character. Maybe that was Lee's point? To take the standard immigrant literary fare of the hard working and noble immigrant family and turn it on its head and write about immigrants who are just as messed up as everyone else around them. For good measure, make them a little more messed up then their non-Korean peers.
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Format: Hardcover
I picked up this book from my local library based on all the great press it had received. After finishing the book, my reaction is that the praise is only somewhat deserved.

I had been looking forward to reading this book -- not only because of the acclaim, but because the author and her characters come from a background like my own -- high-achieving immigrants who had gone on to successful professional lives in New York.

Yet, just fifty pages in, I wanted to put it down. I had to force myself to read. The dialogue, especially the passages between the protagonist and her sister, and the protagonist and her friends, is so precious it's brutally painful -- a sort of artificial, too-smart-for-it's-own-good witty banter. I found myself grimacing while reading.

But that wasn't the only problem. The author also indulges in these tedious passages of exposition -- indeed, as one critic wrote, too much tell, too little show. The book is 600 pages -- it could surely have been edited down to half.

As a testament to how unnecessary the exposition is though, and as a boon for me as a reader, I was able to skim pretty quickly and get into the plot and characters. I started to enjoy the experience, and read on. To be fair, this may be because the world and the characters in the book are so familiar to me, and because the author weaves a heck of a soap opera of a story -- lots of sex and intrigue.

Following the trend of excess though, the author even takes the soap opera too far, with infidelity not only plaguing the protagonist, but nearly every other character in the book -- not just her immediate friends. If it's not a theme, it's almost a parody.
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