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Free Food for Millionaires

3.42  ·  Rating Details  ·  3,616 Ratings  ·  688 Reviews
Casey Han's four years at Princeton gave her many things, "But no job and a number of bad habits." Casey's parents, who live in Queens, are Korean immigrants working in a dry cleaner, desperately trying to hold on to their culture and their identity. Their daughter, on the other hand, has entered into rarified American society via scholarships. But after graduation, Casey ...more
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Published June 15th 2007 by Tantor Media (first published January 1st 2007)
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Jul 20, 2007 Jennifer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: immigrant-lit
I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

Unlike the majority of the reviewers, I liked Casey Han. I found her pursuit of higher education, materialism, desire for religion, lust, need for independence, mass credit card debt, love of fashion, and the way she constantly seemed to disappoint her family quite realistic. Despite the fact that Casey is willing to walk away from her family, her cheating American boyfriend, her Korean boyfriend, and refuses help offered by her long-time family friend all in the n
Jul 15, 2007 Natalie rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: didntfinish
Update 7/15: I'm not reading any further. I just can't stand the way Lee writes. It's like Edith Wharton's clumsy cousin wrote a book, and then piped it through a Babelfish translator into chicklit cliches circa 2001. With a small dash of Korean culture for seasoning. An unsympathetic protagonist is a challenge for any novelist, but especially for one who writes so horribly. Sure, Lee has won a number of prizes and the book's been well reviewed in a number of places, but I just couldn't read it. ...more
Sep 10, 2007 Cathy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: jaded azns
if i'd actually paid attention when i was applying to college, this might be an accurate reflection of my life. and if i was korean. and if i was religious. and if i liked making hats.

"free food" follows the post-college years of casey han, a queens-born ivy league grad who's undergoing one of those infamous "quarter-life" crises. the author, lee, keeps you interested by letting you peek into the minds of her employers, boyfriends, family, and friends.

she also gets the "1st generation asian" sto
May 16, 2010 Catherine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Most of my reading is contemporary lit fiction. Keeping that in mind, I disagree with allegations that this is chicklit or poorly written (which wasn't the view of the NYT Book Review either, btw). For me, this novel was thoroughly engaging--hard to put down, full of charm and wit, and rich with interesting interludes into characters' backgrounds. Yes, the way that it goes into those characters' backgrounds is modeled on 19th century novels, but I didn't find that dull -- for me, the book has en ...more
Feb 29, 2008 Bishop rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I had been waiting for a long time to read the book. It was a page turner, peopled by overachieving kalbi eaters (my kind of people), full of sex, and ultimately... not all that. Actually it was kind of weak. Maybe it's me, but major plotlines involving getting internships while in business school (oh, sorry, B school) are not the stuff of dreams. And how many love triangles/illicit love affairs/star-crossed romances can a 550+ page book support? Apparently less than seven? The characters were i ...more
Clif Hostetler
Mar 04, 2014 Clif Hostetler rated it liked it
Shelves: novel
This is an epic length novel that's not an epic. It's a portrayal of life within the ambitious and high achieving Korean-American community in New York City during the 1990s. The book also aspires to be a romance novel of the 19th century style but with modern mores (i.e. lots of sex and not so much marriage).

As one would expect the conflict between traditional Korean and urban American culture is examined. Another theme are differences between those who are wealthy and those who wish they were
May 17, 2008 Hubert rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those interested in Victorian novels.
Shelves: fiction, new-york

This book could have been trimmed by about 100 pages, but nonetheless I enjoyed it in the way I enjoy Guiding Light. Will they kiss? Oh my the unaccepted boyfriend is going to make a scene with her parents! Oh my! This soap opera of a novel takes us through the life of a young Korean-American Princeton graduate who's surrounded by other upwardly mobile Ivy graduates while she herself perpetually can't get out of debt on account of her shopping addiction.

The fi
Aug 02, 2010 Valerie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Completely absorbing--I was eager to return to these characters each night as my treat after a long day. Loved the omniscient point of view; it's rare in the fiction I read that I can get inside the mind of each character, and so unlike my normal life where I only get to know what I'm thinking. The author moves so deftly between characters too, even within the same paragraph. I've read clunkier versions where each chapter heading is a new character and their voice alone, but Lee seamlessly shift ...more
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Jul 02, 2007 Sara rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A combination of chick-lit, a story of migration and generations, and a commentary on socioeconomic hierarchy (in the US and in Korea). That it takes place in NY and involves Korean culture makes it even more interesting for me.

It's true that Casey, the main character, makes one bad decision after another, and that makes me dislike her at times. But overall I think that this exemplifies a major strength of the book: it has a very sophisticated undercurrent of reality, where real people, particul
*2012..the year I gave out so many five star ratings, I'm shocking even myself.*
This book has been called by one reviewer the 'post-feminist' version of 'Bonfire of the Vanities'. Others have panned it because the characters are unlikeable to them. My own experience is I didn't want the book to end. I'm still thinking about Casey, Leah, Unu, Ella and the other fully formed characters--even minor ones-- that seemed to step off the page. Not only is this a novel of the Korean-American experience
Lisa Fluet
Dec 01, 2007 Lisa Fluet rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone without a sense of humor
finished this book--and, I think I finished it just so I could be really thorough in any descriptions of why I disliked it so much. Min Lee is writing in one of my favorite genres--something like the upward mobility/bildungsroman for the scholarship student, but that's about all that I find to recommend this book.

If I had to sum up quickly--this book takes itself REALLY seriously, and is INTENSELY UNHUMOROUS. Not that she has to be funny, necessarily, but this is also a book that meditates upon
Jun 01, 2008 Kate rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Kate by: Maureen
I love novels with huge scope and unforgettable characterizations, and what makes this so awesome is how many of the finely detailed and distinct characters are women. Such a pleasure to read that you slow down near the end so it won't be over (but I still read it in two days, because it is excellent. That was kind of a mistake. It's very long.)
This isn’t the kind of book I’d pick up by myself to read for fun, honestly. Fantasy, chick lit, romance, those are more my things, and I enjoy gritty realism less than I enjoy English tea (which is not very much, all things considered). But a lot of my friends spoke very highly of the book, and it was the first selection for a friend’s book club, so I hunkered down after finals to start reading it with the aim of finishing it before the New Year.

And man. This was a long book. It was also a book
I'm surprised by the negative reviews here, but of course everyone has different tastes in books, so I'll have to chalk it up to different strokes for different folks. As a second generation Asian American woman, I could instantly relate to the heroine in this story. The only other book that captured the second generation immigrant experience as well is Jhumpa Lahiri's book, "The Namesake." You're forever caught between the expectations of your hard-working immigrant parents who emigrated to Ame ...more
Jul 22, 2009 Gloria rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Perhaps I just don’t get it since it’s modeled after 19th century novels and I tend to stick with contemporary writers. But if 19th century novel means writing that lacks depth, preposterous dialogue, a repellent protagonist, and prose that flows like backed up pipes, I think I’ll stick with Masterpiece Theatre for my fill of the Victorian era.

Lee was so narrowly focused on recreating the Victorian style that she failed to develop a style of her own. Instead, the writing strikes as fanciful, doi
Mar 23, 2009 Judy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone interested in immigrants to America
Recommended to Judy by: my sister
I really enjoyed this story of a young woman in her twenties navigating some very uncertain areas -- decisions about college and career, becoming independent and stable financially, love and sex, friendship and family obligations. The most difficult area of all for Casey Han is the disparity between her identity and life as a young American woman and her role as the daughter of Korean immigrants who retain many of their values and practices from their earlier life in Korea. It's a fascinating vi ...more
May 11, 2010 Mark rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Casey Han is a young Korean-American woman with severe family issues and a recent Princeton graduate whose life is pretty much out of control throughout. One of the strongest, most consistently drawn characters this reader has encountered in recent fiction, one easily finds oneself hoping she will get her life figured out before she flat out loses it. I found it hard to put this one down. At close to 600 pages, that can be good news and bad. Good news, because it keeps the reader engaged in the ...more
Aug 23, 2007 Akemi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really engaging and hard to put down. It follows the life of a Korean-American woman named Casey Han who has just graduated from Princeton. She has a lot of issues; her dad hits her and throws her out of the house within the first few pages, she has a Gatsby-esque complex with money (except that she doesn't make any), and she basically doesn't know what she wants to do in life. There are several secondary characters, and my favorite aspect of the book was that the author gets into every characte ...more
Feb 01, 2009 Carol rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The protagonist of this well-told tale is a bright young woman, independent-minded, a Princeton graduate, interning unhappily in a Wall Street financial firm, applying to grad school without enthusiasm, ricocheting among boyfriends, more interested in fashions than anything. She is not quite lovable, but she's recognizable. Her Korean-born parents, living a simple hard-working immigrant life in a Korean community, are miles away from her, culturally. That's something that many of us can recogniz ...more
Nicole Marble
Dec 06, 2009 Nicole Marble rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A newish take on immigrants and their kids and differences, this time from Korea. I was rather neutral about liking the story, but the authors abilities for plot and dialog drew me in to the point that I was trying to guess what would come next. Manhattan, stockbrokers, luxury trips, dry cleaning, hats, hunger - and a fair amount of sex. Our 'heroine' isn't very heroic and as my parents generation would put it, she had 'round heels'. But I stuck w/ the story, which is quite long, and do wonder w ...more
Feb 26, 2010 Cindy rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this book. The author gives an in site into another culture that is adapting itself to American's way of life. You follow Casey Han thru the trials and hardship of growing into adulthood. Some of her struggles remind me of my girls growing up. The ending leaves you wondering and wanting to know where Casey ends up. There were no life lessons or big mystery here just an enjoyable page turning story.
Feb 11, 2009 Robyn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bookgroup-reads
This book reminds me of a warped Carnival ride--starts off slow, then speeds up so fast you say 'Let me off!', at which point it slows down (and you say, "Gee, this isn't as bad as I thought")--and then speeds up again.
Yes, this book is long--and I agree with others that it's about 100 pages too long. But towards the end, I realized that Free Food for Millionaires is actually a stunning read.
For any of us who have gone to college, graduated, and said "What do I do now?" we can relate. Even if yo
Dec 21, 2010 Shawanna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Free Food for Millionaires explores what happens when a child of Korean immigrants, a child whose parents have scraped and scarificed so that she may attend one of the most prestigious universities in the country, decides not to "fufill her potential", get her graduate degree and work in a profession that will ensure she makes gobs of money. Unsure of what she wants to do with her life and after a huge fight with her father, which results in her getting kicked out of their house, she spends her ...more
Feb 24, 2009 Sarah rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
A debut novel that delves into thorny issues of money and its connection to race in the business world, as well as a treatise on what tools are needed to acquire personal happiness. Suffice it to say, there's a lot going on in Min Jin Lee's Free Food For Millionaires. And it's most promising sections involve not just her main character, 20-something Casey, but her mother. They become a pair at novel's end--a circumstance that seemed accidental on the author's part; but it remains a spark of brig ...more
Mar 29, 2014 Erin rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
For me, this is the kind of book that's more rewarding to think about than it is to read. I didn't find the book particularly pleasurable--it dragged on too long, the characters were flat by design, and I thought that the novel's mash-up of Victorian/chick-lit styles and plot lines wasn't entirely successful. What's more, the book hasn't aged particularly well: in this post-crash, post-Occupy world, it's a bit harder to empathize with the romantic and career follies of the investment banker set. ...more
Mar 24, 2009 Kelly rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Free Food for Millionaires follows Korean-American Casey Han, a recent Princeton graduate, through her life post-graduation. Unlike many of her class mates, she does not get a job in investment banking. Instead, she flounders and finds herself deeply in debt and unsure of what she wants out of life. She has a falling out with her family and must rely on the good graces of friends to help her.

Casey seemed to me to be cynical, mean and stuck. I never really got why the friends who helped her want
Mar 26, 2012 Kelly rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this book hard to put aside, despite several quibbles with the way it was plotted and written. Free Food for Millionaires is the story of Casey Han, an American born Korean woman who finds herself caught between worlds - those of her parents and her peers. The disparity between cultures is not the only thing Casey struggles with. As the child of apparently poor immigrants, she also feels apart from the entitled men and women who make up the majority of her friends.

From her first love to
Mary Taitt
Oct 15, 2009 Mary Taitt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Free Food for Millionaires, by Min Jin Lee, 4+

Casey Han had a scholarship to Princeton; otherwise, she'd have been unable to attend. Her time at Princeton gave her "No job and many bad habits," and a hunger for a lifestyle far above that which she could afford or had been used to with her immigrant Korean parents who ran a laundry service in Manhattan. Through Casey's eye's we see New York as experienced by the poor and the rich. Casey is offered several divergent opportunities and has to choose
Aug 16, 2011 Beth rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
For starters, here is Amazon's review:

"Casey Han's four years at Princeton gave her many things, 'But no job and a number of bad habits.' Casey's parents, who live in Queens, are Korean immigrants working in a dry cleaner, desperately trying to hold on to their culture and their identity. Their daughter, on the other hand, has entered into rarified American society via scholarships. But after graduation, Casey sees the reality of having expensive habits without the means to sustain them. As she
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Min Jin Lee went to Yale College where she was awarded both the Henry Wright Prize for Nonfiction and the James Ashmun Veech Prize for Fiction. She then attended law school at Georgetown University and worked as a lawyer for several years in New York prior to writing full time.

Her debut novel FREE FOOD FOR MILLIONAIRES was a No. 1 Book Sense Pick, a NEW YORK TIMES Editor’s Choice, a WALL STREET J
More about Min Jin Lee...

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“Casey glanced at her plate again, recalling the posters of her elementary school lunchroom: YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT. So, how much you ate indicated the quantity of your desire. Walter was also implying that how quickly you got your food revealed the likelihood of achieving your goals. She was in fact terribly hungry, but she'd pretended to be otherwise to be ladylike and had moved away from the table to be agreeable, and now she'd continue to be hungry" (Free Food For Millionaires, p.92.)” 1 likes
“Casey meant it when she said, 'Forgive us for our debts as we forgive our debtors,' because they were for her the hardest words to live by, and by saying them, she hoped they'd become possible. Like Ted, Casey would never discuss her ambivalent views on religion. She was honest enough to admit that her privacy cloaked a fear: the fear of being found out as a hypocrite" (Free Food For Millionaires, p.100-101.)” 1 likes
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