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Soy Sauce for Beginners

3.32 of 5 stars 3.32  ·  rating details  ·  3,995 ratings  ·  466 reviews
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 str

Hardcover, 256 pages
Published January 7th 2014 by New Harvest (first published January 1st 2014)
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2014 Reads You Don't Want To Miss
245th out of 983 books — 1,390 voters
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3rd out of 45 books — 3 voters

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I bought this book for cheap on Amazon, fairly suspicious that this would end up being "chick lit," and my suspicions really were fair.

Let's just say it would take very little work to turn this into a Lifetime movie. There's a little more depth than that, but it's slight enough to be edited out. Our main character's really kind of a spoiled bitch, with Parents Issues, but none of that is explored enough to be something to make you go "hmm." The soy sauce angle is thankfully relevant but slight.
Angela Risner
This was my Prime memberships free book choice and I have to say, it was a good one. This is Kirstin Chen's debut novel and I look forward to reading more from this author in the future.

Gretchen Lin is at what I call the second-coming-of-age point in your life - age 30. A native Singaporean, Gretchen has spent a large part of her life in the US, through boarding school, college, graduate school and married life. Now she returns home for some breathing room from her troubled marriage and career p
Angela Schaffer
This book was a disappointment overall. In both fiction and film, I most enjoy works in which I can connect strongly to the characters. I simply could not do that with this novel. The protagonist, Gretchen, is too weak, in her decisions about her marriage, her career, her parents, her new relationship, etc. I felt she was a poorly developed character. I also believed the text suffered from editing. There was a fine concept there. However, as a Creative Writing instructor, I would have handed thi ...more
I couldn't put it down! It felt like I was reading someone's journal. If you have ever experienced moving away and then coming back home, you would certainly identify with Gretchen's story. I love how the author weaved in the intricacies of making good soy sauce. She didn't just write a beautiful story, she made me care about what happened to each character. Pick this book up, you won't be disappointed!
Gary Singh
As a dude who doesn't think this is chick lit, I loved the book. Just like me, it's half-eastern and half-western, with the other half lost in music school somewhere. I didn't go to the SF Conservatory, but I think I still might have the key to the practice rooms at the university where I did go, even though that was 16 years ago, and not too far away. In that sense, I feel like I know Gretchen, the protagonist. She has no idea what she wants in life, stuck between her eastern half and her weste ...more
Dec 05, 2013 Jay marked it as to-read
I accidentally pushed a button on the Itouch and next thing I knew I'd ordered this pre-release. Figure I might as well read it, maybe it was serendipity.
Patty Mccormick
This book is a quick read. It is easy to follow and understand. It is the struggle of a family business and it’s choices of how to remain successful and carry on. This is the coming of age story of Gretchen who must make big decisions in her life about what she really wants to do both in her personal and professional life. She has to find her way and embrace who she is. There is also a little thread of a love story woven in. The book is full of information about soy sauce. There is also elements ...more
Joood Hooligan

I picked this as one of my monthly choices as a Prime member last December, and I decided to finally give it a go when I saw it was a Whispersync option on KU. (Knowing that I can press play on a book I'm reading when I'm busy cleaning or driving is a fabulous thing, especially because I hate stopping a good book.)

Before I get into the review of the book, I want to say that I felt Nancy Wu did a wonderful job as a narrator, and I plan on listening to more
Shanna Clark
To be a debut novel, this one has it's strengths, but there are also many weaknesses.

The protagonist in the story is not a likable person. She has no self-esteem, but seems to be shocked when people do not regard her. It's contradictory and frustrating. Only toward the end of the novel does she become a tolerable character after completely changing all facets of her needy, whiny personality.

The story would be moving along strongly before pausing for a flashback or anecdote. Some of the flashback
I felt I was reading a journal, as if this was the author’s memoir. So begins the story of Gretch who is in a transition in her life – after being faced with deceit and betrayal.

Many note the rich Asian symbolism. Funny on the rich asian part as, for example, I don’t feel rich at all – it’s our parents and ancestors legacy we just happen to be inheriting.

I can’t help but reminisce on how the parents throw out the name of the Uni their son/daughter attend/attending/attended. There’s the typical
I actually really loved this, and I was surprised to see other reviews disparaging it in such a harsh way. It's a novel about a woman at 30 who's getting divorced, and goes home to Singapore temporarily to see her family and get herself together. She has to put up with a lot of jerks, almost all of whom are men. This is most definitely not a love story, which I thought was a major plus. If anything, the strongest relationships are between Gretchen and her mother and with her best friend.

It's a s
Clarissa Simmens
An excellent story containing all the rich symbolism I enjoy. Gretchen is a music student but the metronome appears so many times that surely it is a metaphor for her chaotic life: to slow down her mother's illness, to speed up time to get away from family and to reverse time back to when her marriage was whole. Chen's two sentences describe the major theme: “I reached over to my nightstand, turned my metronome to forty, the slowest setting, and counted the steady clicks. Once the needle got goi ...more
Meh. It's been a while since I so sincerely despised the narrator/protagonist in a novel. The only consolation was that the "happily ever after" didn't include her finding her worth through being in a relationship. That and the desire to taste the legitimate soy sauce. Yay.
I could totally see this book being made into a romantic dramedy for film. It is a very cute book with a main character that has flaws but is still very likeable. Gretchen Lin is 30 and leaving San Francisco after her husband cheats on her with a 21 year old student to head back to work in the family Soy Sauce business in Singapore. Will she be drawn back to the family business full time or will she head back to America? Will the new guy, James, that she meets in Singapore be the one or will her ...more
I think this book has a few really good characteristics. The author does a great job with descriptions of both Singapore and San Francisco, and the --- new to me anyway -- process of making soy sauce. Some of the characters were quite well fleshed out, but others seemed almost unnecessary, and one dimentional. I was extremely disappointed that we didn't learn more about the production of soy sauce. Not that I will want to take it up any time soon, but some actual real life stuff would have made ...more
Sadly, this book did not live up to my expectations. While I consider it a worthwhile read, because it introduced me to some new ideas about cooking (I had no idea there was such a thing as artisan soy sauce) as well as culture (I have never been out of the States/Canada so some of the descriptions of Singapore were fascinating)... overall, I was bummed. The climax of the book... wait... was there a climax? There also seemed to be several interconnecting stories, except the problem is that they ...more
I bought the book as part of Amazon First and also because I thought it would be interesting. I tried for more than a month to read it, but it was hard. It's hard to relate to a a character in a privileged disposition in life only to whine and ramble about life and a marriage that has crumbled. Gretchen's father owns a soy sauce company in Singapore and she comes home from California after her marriage crumbled and when she learned that her mother was ill. There was a position made for her in th ...more
Quick-paced read about a family of artisan soy sauce makers. Gretchen is the only daughter of the Lins, who run a soy sauce business in Singapore. They make their sauce in small batches using old-fashioned methods. Gretchen's mother, who spent years studying in the United States, encouraged Gretchen to study, live, and work in the States as well rather than returning to Singapore.

But Gretchen is back in Singapore, having left her graduate program and apartment because she and her husband are es
Soy Sauce for Beginners was a promising read, depicting a 30-some asian, worn down by life and returning to her family roots, set in Singapore. Almost sounds like my life in a couple years! But Kirsten Chen's characters failed to come to life. There are plenty of other reviews that hit my feelings pretty accurately concerning this book.
A book that kind of languishes with no clear plot to follow, characters that I can no longer remember the name to, and feelings that don't really hit an emotional
Tracey Hook
Sep 18, 2014 Tracey Hook rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Everyone!
A wonderful story about family and accepting where you come from. Starting a new life by returning to your roots.
A freebie I got from Amazon for being a Prime member (my first foray into this portion of our newly acquired Prime membership), something called their First program. This is a debut novel by the author, and I wasn't expecting to like it, since I mostly read Christian fiction. But it was surprisingly good, and very clean (I only remember 2 curse words in the entire book). Nice plot, likeable characters, it kept me turning the Kindle pages :)
This was a fast an easy read. It was set in Singapore and gave me a good picture of a place I was unfamiliar with, and also interesting knowledge of the making of soy sauce. While the MC remained a bit too passive and seemed much younger than her supposed age of 30, their was character growth and a touching family drama, realistic women's friendships, and a kind of sad look at modern marriage and dating.
Cathy Klein
Gretchen Lin has spent most of her life tryng to please either her dad, by staying in the soy sauce business in Singapore, or her mom, by moving to the United States and pursuing a musical career. Although she does go to school and marry in California, she returns to Singapore to help her mother battle liver failure and assist in the family business. Even though she is feeling lost in her personal life and the summer in Singapore has been somewhat frustrating for her, she eventually has a life c ...more
Title: Soy Sauce for Beginners
Author: Kirstin Chen
Genre: General Fiction
Rating: 4.0 Stars
Format: Kindle Book

I downloaded this book for free, and it was a good purchase. It's a fairly engrossing tale about Gretchen, whose family lives in Singapore and owns a soy sauce making business. Typically of a young person, she runs from her roots to San Francisco, where she marries and goes to college, changing majors as often as she changes clothes, it seems, in an attempt to find her path in life. As her
Gretchen is the daughter of a artisanal soy sauce "empire". Her grandfather founded the company, where her father, uncle and cousin all work. Gretchen left Singapore some tens years ago and has been living in San Francisco, pursuing a career in music. When her marriage breaks up, she returns to Singapore, intending to spend the summer working at the family business before returning to the US to continue her studies. Being in Singapore will force her to face up to family issues that she has been ...more
The book is a light and pleasant read though Gretchen isn’t really a likeable character but one who fumbles most of her life, hoping to get out and make a life of her own that is not determined by her mum or dad. When that failed, she reluctantly seek refuge back home but yet avoid her parents, starts a relationship with the son of a client that leads to nowhere, avoids her friends, non committal to a career with the family business, still pine for a husband who ditched her for another asian…the ...more
Soy Sauce for Beginners by Kirstin Chen is a story about Soy Sauce and life choices.

The cover reads: 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 b
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
Krys Gut
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
I love soy sauce in fact while reading this book I found myself craving Asian cuisine. I have never had artisan soy sauce but that being said I would be willing to give it a try and now I am really wanting to go to a soy sauce tasting.

In short, I absolutely loved this book. When I read the reviews I was concerned I may be on the ones who didn't like this book but I wasn't. I found Gretchen very believable, I felt she was someone that if she was real I would be her friend. She is going through re
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Kirstin Chen is the author of Soy Sauce for Beginners, featured in USA Today’s “New Voices”, an O, The Oprah Magazine book to pick up now, and a Glamour book club pick. A former Steinbeck Fellow in Creative Writing, she holds an MFA from Emerson College and a BA from Stanford University. She was born and raised in Singapore and currently lives in San Francisco, where she's at work on her second no ...more
More about Kirstin Chen...
Sojasoße für Anfänger The Epigram Books Collection of Best New Singaporean Short Stories: Volume Two

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“Govern a family as you would cook a small fish—very gently.” 3 likes
“They said someday you’ll find / all who love are blind / Oh, when your heart’s on fire / You must realize / Smoke gets in your eyes.” 2 likes
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