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Free Food for Millionaires

3.64  ·  Rating details ·  7,263 ratings  ·  1,045 reviews
Free Food for Millionaires, the debut novel from Min Jin Lee, takes on daunting themes of love, money, race, and belief systems in this mostly satisfying tale. Casey Han is a Princeton grad, class of '93, and it is her conflicts, relationships, and temperament that inform the novel. She is the child of immigrant Korean parents who work in the same laundry in Queens where t ...more
Kindle Edition, 577 pages
Published July 2nd 2007 by Grand Central Publishing (first published January 1st 2007)
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Yaocheng Agreed. Casey rarely seems to finish what she starts. Perhaps the novel's ending was fitting.

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Thomas
3.5 stars

While not as iconic as her sophomore novel Pachinko , Min Jin Lee's literary debut Free Food for Millionaires still stands as an important and entertaining read with a wide cast of characters. As a couple other reviews on Goodreads noted, you might have to be Asian - and more specifically, a child of immigrants - to fully appreciate the themes and events Lee portrays in this novel. Through her characters, she portrays complex Asian American family dynamics as well as the fight for upwa
...more
Jennifer
Jul 20, 2007 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
...more
Natalie
Jul 13, 2007 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
Bishop
Feb 10, 2008 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
Cathy
Sep 10, 2007 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
...more
Clif Hostetler
Feb 21, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Catherine
May 16, 2010 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
Kate Olson
I LOVED this book! After reading and loving PACHINKO last spring, I knew I would need to come back to read this one and I am so so so happy that I did. Casey is such a flawed character, but she's flawed in so many of the same ways that I am.....and this made me love her so so so much. She may just be my new favorite book character, with her stubbornness and unwillingness to do what is expected of her. I love the way this book addresses immigration and class and wealth, too. The gambling addictio ...more
Hubert
May 17, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those interested in Victorian novels.
Shelves: fiction, new-york
***SPOILERS***SPOILERS***SPOILERS***

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
...more
Jody
*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
...more
Elaine
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Siria
I picked this up because it got a glowing review in the NYT, and because the blurb made it sound like the exact kind of thing I would be interested in: the daughter of poor Korean immigrants, who made it to Princeton and now hopes for a career as an investment banker; the immigrant experience, the intersection of social classes and ethnic groups. Those elements were there, but where I was expecting an in-depth exploration of them, what I got was a melodramatic soap opera—and a poorly written one ...more
Valerie
Aug 02, 2010 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
Lisa Fluet
Nov 15, 2007 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
...more
Beth
Aug 16, 2011 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
...more
Sarah Sammis
Aug 24, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: released
There are two good things about Free Food for Millionaires: the title (taken from the free lunches offered to investment bankers) and the cover art. That's about it.

The remaining 500 pages drag through endless chapters of Casey and her acquaintances trying to get on with their lives. Some of the characters grow and learn over time but the main character, Casey, doesn't do a damn thing in this book. She's apparently good at investment banking and good at millinery (free food for milliners?) but
...more
Zee
Feb 19, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those keen on Asian books...
Recommended to Zee by: saw it on a library shelf, got seduced by the pretty cover.
I found this far too long. It's quite a thick book, and I can't help thinking the story could have been edited down to become a more dynamic, involving plot.

The characters were also a bit stale. I coldn't relate to many of them. They were either too selfish, or far too giving. Lee's characters weren't very likable. Like the majority of people, I also didn't like Casey Han. I found her 'wonder woman cuffs' silly. Although there was nothing wrong with her towards the end of the book, the way she k
...more
Carol
Feb 01, 2009 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
Gloria
Jul 22, 2009 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
...more
Sara
Jul 02, 2007 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
...more
Catie
@words.between.worlds IG Book Club - February 2018
Diversireads
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
...more
Autumn
Jun 09, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Maybe 2.5. Not as polished as PACHINKO, but this is 10 years previous to that so that's understandable.
Bookworm
May 13, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
What a waste of time! I've had this book for at least of couple of years after buying it as a bargain book. I finally got around to it, thinking that it was time for a big grand epic for the weekend. This was one of those highly touted books, although I don't recall the hype when it was released.
 
Casey is a young woman who graduated from Princeton with no direction. She hasn't landed a prestigious job, she isn't getting married, she's living with her parents. The daughter of immigrants and she i
...more
Jacqui Mccann
Oct 17, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The précis of this novel suggested it had everything in a book that I love in terms of an exploration of life within a different culture. However, the novel lacked a strong storyline and although the book was about the life of a young Korean girl from a poor background struggling to carve out a life for herself in New York, Casey Han was only part of a myriad of characters and events. Parts of the book seemed insignificant, with detailed descriptions of events that appeared unrelated to the stor ...more
Kristen Beverly
It's never really a good sign when I finish a book, put it down and say, "ugh... finally!" I enjoyed this book, but it definitely had it's flaws. I feel like the narration was way off on this book. It's an omniscient narrator, but it focuses mainly on Casey, resulting in many sentences with the word "Casey" in them. It just became extremely tedious. And with all the different affairs - I kind of felt like it was the same story over and over again.

I was going to give this book 3 stars, but once
...more
Kate
Jun 01, 2008 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.)
JoAnn
Aug 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
4.5 / 5 stars

Free Food for Millionaires is a big, exciting novel about... well, almost everything! Money and power, race and culture, love and sex, class, education, privilege, identity, and even fashion. It focuses on a Korean-American community in New York City in the 1990s, and I simply couldn't put it down.

This book is so good, yet so different from Lee's more recent novel, Pachinko and, in the words of my 80-something mother, a lot "racier" too. Set in 1990s NYC, this fast-paced novel with
...more
Irene
The girl had no cash left and no backup plans. The most hilarious thing about this girl was that she was too proud to use whatever connections she might have made. Her arrogance stunned him; he almost admired it... She was acting like a rich white girl, and Ted knew that life did not let you lie to yourself for very long.

***Spoilers***

Free Food for Millionaires is an easy enough read but is it interesting enough to keep the reader's attention at 560 pages? That is the question I kept returning
...more
Ed
Dec 16, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I first read "Free Food for Millionaires" over 10 years ago and picked it up again recently. I very rarely re-read novels and Min Jin Lee joins John Le Carre, Natsuo Kirino, Jane Austen, Thomas Hardy and maybe a couple of others. It is not surprising that the protagonist, Casey Han, is a fan of Anthony Trollope, George Elliot and the Bronte sisters--like the big novels of the 19th century, "FFfM" is a sprawling narrative that follows the loves and careers of many characters, some described so we ...more
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Words Between Worlds: Overall thoughts 2 30 Feb 18, 2018 02:40PM  
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Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko (Feb 2017) is a national bestseller, a New York Times Editor’s Choice and an American Booksellers Association’s Indie Next Great Reads. Lee’s debut novel Free Food for Millionaires (May 2007) was a No. 1 Book Sense Pick, a New York Times Editor’s Choice, a Wall Street Journal Juggle Book Club selection, and a national bestseller; it was a Top 10 Novels of the Year for The Ti ...more
“Clothing was magic. Casey believed this. She would never admit this to her classmates in any of her women's studies courses, but she felt that an article of clothing could change a person... Each skirt, blouse, necklace, or humble shoe said something - certain pieces screamed, and others whispered seductively, but no matter, she experienced each item's expression keenly, and she loved this world. every article suggested an image, a life, a kind of woman, and Casey felt drawn to them." (Free Food For Millionaires, p.41).” 7 likes
“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.)” 2 likes
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