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Soy Sauce for Beginners by Kirstin Chen

Soy Sauce for Beginners (2014)

by Kirstin Chen

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2016, download ( )
  heina | Mar 30, 2016 |
think I actually bought this, read like 25%, couldn't go on...
  lulaa | Apr 11, 2015 |
In Soy Sauce for Beginners, the protagonist Gretchen has returned from living in San Francisco, after the failure of her marriage, to her native home in Singapore. She gets involved in the family business, which creates artisanal soy sauces. I honestly had no idea that there was such a thing, and found all references to this craft intriguing. However, this novel seems to struggle between being literary fiction with substance, or being entertaining chick-lit. The latter seems to have won out for the most part. I think the author Kirstin Chen has potential in whatever direction she chooses to go in the event that she writes/publishes further, although I hope she goes for substance. ( )
  ValerieAndBooks | Mar 2, 2015 |
The most interesting thing, to me, about this novel is that it's chick-lit set in Singapore. I really liked the setting and learning all about soy sauce. But I didn't much care for the main character, a spoiled, self-absorbed 30-year-old from a wealthy family who returns from San Francisco to get over a break-up, work in her family's high-quality soy sauce factory, and embrace her Singaporean roots. ( )
  DonnaCallea | Nov 29, 2014 |
While better written than most of the Kindle ARC offerings, Soy Sauce for Beginners still lacked the heart to engage at least this reader. Although ostensibly about the main character's growth into someone who discards both her self-centeredness and desire to please others at her own expense, the narrative never convinces on either point.

This is due in no small part to the fact that the supporting characters are little more than props to advance the protagonist's journey, as opposed to individuals in their own rights. In some cases this is due to too little development: one plot point involves a family member who may have been wrongfully blamed for an event that hurt the family company's fortunes. He's next introduced as someone who can turn the backward company around, before disappearing and finally reemerging as a consummate villain at the novel's conclusion. None of these metamorphoses makes any more sense than the others.

Sometimes it's due to too much detail: much is made of how the alcoholic mother's drinking and thrice-weekly dialysis disrupts the family's life...for about three chapters. Then she's checked into an inpatient facility. What additional burdens with this create for the already stressed family?

None. The dialysis and alcoholism plotlines go away for good as if Chen's forgotten she ever wrote them into the book in the first place. And so on.

By and large, Soy Sauce for Beginners is the literary equivalent of an East Asian television series: good production values and plenty drama, but all of it acted out by two-dimensional characters. ( )
  Trismegistus | Sep 20, 2014 |
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These are some of my favorite smells: toasting bagel, freshly cut figs, the bergamot in good Earl Grey tea, a jar of whole soybeens slowly turning beneath a tropical sun.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0544114396, Hardcover)

Gretchen Lin, adrift at the age of thirty, leaves her floundering marriage in San Francisco to move back to her childhood home in Singapore and immediately 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.
Soy Sauce for Beginners reveals the triumphs and sacrifices that shape one woman’s search for a place to call home, and 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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:32 -0400)

Gretchen Lin leaves behind a floundering marriage to return to her Singapore home, where she confronts the challenges of her mother's alcoholism and her father's artisanal soy sauce business before being pulled into a family controversy.

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