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Soy Sauce for Beginners by [Chen, Kirstin]
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Soy Sauce for Beginners Kindle Edition

3.9 out of 5 stars 1,004 customer reviews

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Length: 261 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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From the Editor

I'll admit it: finishing Kirstin Chen's debut novel, Soy Sauce for Beginners, made me sad. Not because the ending was unhappy, but because I had to say good-bye to Gretchen, the protagonist. I felt so connected to Gretchen, her loving but troubled family, and their lives in vibrant Singapore that I didn't want their story to end. I felt like I grew along with Gretchen as she navigated painful transitions in her life, and in a little corner of my mind she's still with me, living off the page.

Like Jean Kwok's Girl in Translation or Anna Quindlen's One True Thing, Soy Sauce for Beginners beautifully captures both the joys and the complexities of parent-child relationships. Chen treats all of her characters—Gretchen's mother, struggling with alcoholism; her provincial father; and Gretchen herself, fleeing a failing marriage—with care and honesty. Despite (or maybe because of) the drama of family feuds, new romance, and a business in crisis, the story feels absolutely true to life.

Of course, Soy Sauce for Beginners isn't just about family relationships and life transitions: as the title hints, it's also about Chinese food (described in mouth-watering detail) and soy sauce, the family business. I was fascinated by the scene where visitors to the factory are offered a drink of soy sauce mixed with Sprite. When I asked Kirstin about it, she told me it was based on a real drink offered to her when she toured a factory in Singapore. Then she dared me to try it at home. I accepted the challenge, and I dare you to try it too—it's delicious and unexpected, just like this wonderful book.

- Carly Hoffmann, Acquiring Editor

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

When Gretchen Lin returns to her family home in Singapore, her intention is to stay just long enough to decide what to do about the unfaithful husband she left behind in California. While there, she will help her father handle her alcoholic mother’s failing health and lend a hand at the family’s artisanal soy-sauce business, but she intends to return to San Francisco in time for the final year of her doctoral program. After years spent at schools in America, Gretchen no longer sees Singapore as her home. The transition is a difficult one, made more difficult by a scandal threatening to destroy the family business. Still, with the help of her American friend, Frankie, Gretchen may yet come to see the beauty of her homeland and of her family and the traditions it has to offer. Gretchen’s journey of self-discovery forms the backbone of this story about family, tradition, and honor. Foodies will appreciate the behind-the-scenes look at the world of artisanal soy sauce, while others will enjoy Chen’s tribute to her native Singapore. --Cortney Ophoff


The perfect blend of family drama, complicated romance, and behind-the-scenes artisanal brewing of the world's most unsung condiment." Glamour

"Chen’s flavorful prose will have you thinking about the often dismissed condiment in a whole new way." Metro

"Chen keeps the action at a steady pace with well-placed dialogue and setting, making it hard to put down, even for sleep." Webster-Kirkwood Times

“Gretchen’s journey of self-discovery forms the backbone of this story about family, tradition, and honor. Foodies will appreciate the behind-the-scenes look at the world of artisanal soy sauce, while others will enjoy Chen’s tribute to her native Singapore.” Booklist

“Soy Sauce for Beginners is Kirstin Chen’s first novel, and it works like a good recipe, with smooth language and an easily digestible plot …a dialogue based page turner… Readers craving an engaging and readable foodie tale will declare themselves satisfied.” Washington Independent Review of Books

"Soy Sauce for Beginners is an assured debut novel as light and flavorful as the condiment spicing its pages.” —The Straits Times

“A funny and heartfelt novel exploring the intersections of food, family, and culture.” —Hartford Guardian

“Chen navigates the culture with the insight of an insider.” —San Jose Mercury News

"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. It will also turn every reader into an artisanal soy sauce aficionado willing to settle for nothing but the best." —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

"At the center of this novel is a struggling family business, but its bright heart is the difficult business of family. Written with warmth, umami and humor, Soy Sauce for Beginners considers the intricacies of inheritance and the challenges of safeguarding tradition. Kirstin Chen has written a spirited novel of self-discovery." —Amber Dermont, author of The Starboard Sea

"Kirstin Chen evokes with wonderful brio the conflicts of a family business, and of a family. Reading these vivid pages made me want to catch the next plane to Singapore. Or failing that read another absorbing chapter. A sparkling debut." —Margot Livesey, author of The Flight of Gemma Hardy

Product details

  • File Size: 2358 KB
  • Print Length: 261 pages
  • Publisher: Amazon Publishing (January 1, 2014)
  • Publication Date: January 1, 2014
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Screen Reader: Supported
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #33,032 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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