29 August 2007

Leaning into tomorrow

Sadly, I finished Free Food for Millionaires two nights ago and am consoling myself by reading Liesl Schillinger's glowing review:
Casey has acquired her outsize sense of personal destiny from two sources: her mentor, Sabine (an immigrant from her mother’s village in Korea who has built a successful fashion business and married a rich American), and a handful of British authors whose works she reads again and again: George Eliot, the Brontë sisters and Trollope. Their fiction, Casey notices, bears an uncanny resemblance to the “Korean fairy tales her mother used to tell her,” in which good things came to clever and virtuous women who followed the paths of “sacrifice and integrity.”

But growing up in Queens at the end of the 20th century — rather than in the British countryside in the 19th century or on the outskirts of Seoul in the aftermath of the Korean War — Casey finds she has little appetite for the “sacrifice” part of the fantasy she savored as a child: “She had a strong desire to be happy and to have love, and she’d never considered such wishes to be Korean ones.” Her mentor reinforces the message that she must write the script for her own future.
I wish there were more chapters to this one--not because I need to know what "happens next," but because I enjoyed Casey's company and the tangled mess that is her life. It was a surprising relief to find so many familiar conflicts and situations in these pages--conflicts that I haven't read enough of. How do you reconcile the person you're becoming with where you came from? Is it really a form of betrayal to have differing values from your (immigrant) parents? Her struggles with the Bible were familiar as well. I admire her willingness to wrestle with texts that are difficult to wholly understand or come to terms with. But she keeps reading, living, questioning...while forging her own identity in the process.

This book felt like an old friend. I am very happy to keep it on these shelves.

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