New American Library, a division of Penguin Books, 2008. ISBN 978-0-451-22417-0.
Reviewed by Jennifer Melville
Posted on 07/16/2008
Fiction: Chick Lit
Christine Son's novel Off the Menu is the story of three Asian American women who have been best friends since high school and whose lives have taken them in different directions. Whitney Lee is a successful lawyer with a top-notch education, yet she is unhappy with her life and aspires to a career she keeps secret from her family and friends. Hercules Huang owns her own wildly popular restaurant and line of cookware, yet she struggles in her relationship with her impossible-to-please father and deeply desires the thing he's been nagging her about the most: marriage. Audrey Henley is the adopted daughter of Texas billionaires and a schoolteacher whose desire to marry a fellow teacher and become an English professor puts her at odds with her mother. Each woman discovers what she wants in life and learns how to confide in her friends on her journey to a contented existence.
Son's novel examines the complicated relationship between parents and children, honor and success, and the desire to follow one's own dreams measured against the fear of failure. Off the Menu also explores what it means to be an Asian American: assimilation, generational misunderstandings, honoring one's family, racial stereotypes, and claiming a culture one knows little about. Each woman embarks on a complicated quest for her true identity and struggles between balancing her outer persona of success and perfection with her secret desires and fear of failure.
Off the Menu was an amazing first book. It was easy to relate to the characters, who were vivid, complicated, and realistic. The intertwining plot lines were engaging and interesting. I liked the way each woman faced such unique struggles, yet one thing kept them sane: their friendship with one another. I couldn't put the book down. Off the Menu is an absolute must read.
Christine Son graduated from the University of Texas and Duke University School of Law. She works as corporate counsel for a Fortune 500 company in Dallas, Texas. She lives in Dallas with her husband. Off the Menu is her first novel. Visit her website.
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