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My Korean Deli: Risking It All for a Convenience Store | [Ben Ryder Howe]

My Korean Deli: Risking It All for a Convenience Store

This sweet and funny tale of a preppy editor buying a Brooklyn deli with his Korean in-laws is about family, culture clash, and the quest for authentic experiences. It starts with a gift. When Ben Ryder Howe’s wife, the daughter of Korean immigrants, decides to repay her parents’ self-sacrifice by buying them a store, Howe, an editor at the rarefied Paris Review, agrees to go along.
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Audible Editor Reviews

Bronson Pinchot's narration of Ben Ryder Howe's snarky story of the pitfalls of small business ownership truly makes this offbeat memoir come alive. Not only does Pinchot do an incredible job with Howe's own sarcastic, funny voice, he also manages to provide ample spice to characters as diverse as Kay, Howe's sassy Korean mother-in-law; Dwayne, a quirky deli clerk with a penchant for strange weaponry; and George Plimpton, the famed eccentric literary personality.

When Howe's wife, Gab, sets out to buy a deli for her first-generation immigrant mother as a token of appreciation for her personal determination and sacrifice, things get a bit madcap. Because of this, My Korean Deli ends up being a light-hearted look at leading a peculiar kind of double life. After all, there's something delightful about a story that interweaves the purchase and operation of a family-run bodega in Brooklyn with a part-time editorship at The Paris Review, Howe's day job. After his boss, George Plimpton, warns him of the dangers of duel identity — specifically that one side of his existence will always be threatening to swallow up the other, Howe begins to delve deeper into his own personal values. The book gets meta when he starts to examine different modes of achievement in American culture, pitting the puritanical over-thinking of the author's New England upbringing against the aggressive, DIY ethos of his wife's family. Ultimately, he mostly opts for the latter in life, dedicating himself to the immigrant-run deli and, in a more haute way, the slapdash but impressive Paris Review.

Howe finds a way to balance the big ideas with clever, laugh-out-loud anecdotes. Some of the more hilarious moments come as dispatches from the deli itself, as he is forced to get right with the rowdy regulars, navigate a massive corner-store supply outlet with his cheeky mother-in-law, or come to legal blows with various state regulatory agencies.

There are also more than a few poignant moments, including Plimpton's death, Kay's health issues, and the downward spiral of treasured employee and revered neighborhood character Dwayne. These serve to temper the mood and illustrate that, even in the deli, there are life lessons to be learned. —Gina Pensiero

Publisher's Summary

This sweet and funny tale of a preppy editor buying a Brooklyn deli with his Korean in-laws is about family, culture clash, and the quest for authentic experiences.

It starts with a gift. When Ben Ryder Howe’s wife, the daughter of Korean immigrants, decides to repay her parents’ self-sacrifice by buying them a store, Howe, an editor at the rarefied Paris Review, agrees to go along. Things soon become a lot more complicated.

After the business struggles, Howe finds himself living in the basement of his in-laws’ Staten Island home, commuting to the Paris Review offices in George Plimpton’s Upper East Side townhouse by day, and heading to Brooklyn to slice cold cuts and peddle lottery tickets by night.

My Korean Deli follows the store’s tumultuous life span, and along the way paints the portrait of an extremely unlikely partnership between characters with shoots across society, from the Brooklyn streets to Seoul to Puritan New England. Owning the deli becomes a transformative experience for everyone involved as they struggle to salvage the original gift—and the family—while sorting out issues of values, work, and identity.

©2010 Ben Ryder Howe (P)2011 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

What the Critics Say

My Korean Deli is…about love, culture clashes, family, money, and literature. Plus, it happens to be very funny and poignant.” (A. J. Jacobs, New York Times best-selling author)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.8 (279 )
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4.0 (210 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Jen 04-22-13
    Jen 04-22-13 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Enjoyably light"
    What did you love best about My Korean Deli?

    After listening to several "heavy" books, this was so light - so humorous. Pleasant read


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    the Korean mother in law


    Which scene was your favorite?

    Don't want to give a lot away... I did enjoy all the stories about George Plimpton that were included. He was a talk show guest on many shows when I was a kid....


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    This could easily be done. Good book for when you don't want to listen to something that you have to give your undivided attention to.


    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kim Spokane, WA, United States 02-15-13
    Kim Spokane, WA, United States 02-15-13 Member Since 2009

    Addicted to audiobooks & podcasts. 5 Stars=I Loved It, 4 Stars=Enjoyed it Thoroughly, 3=Kinda Good, 2=Bad/Boring, 1=Complete Waste of Credit

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    "Good palate cleanser"

    I was looking for something light and entertaining to lift my spirits - I found it here. The pitfalls and foibles of the couple who go unwittingly into New York deli ownership made me laugh and kept me entertained. The characters are likeable, the anecdotes are believable, and the narrator is Bronson Pinchot (can't go wrong there). It didn't knock my socks off but I don't think that was the point. Overall an enjoyable listen.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lisa 11-22-11
    Lisa 11-22-11
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    "Funny, fun and great narration"

    Nothing ruins a book like poor narration. Bronchon Pinchot brought all the characters alive with his great accents, including Author Ben Howe's droll sense of humor. A true story and very funny book about a Paris Review wasp who marries into a 1st generation Korean American family. Howe's love, respect and exasperation at his mother in law is the core of the story. Very enjoyable.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Loyola CAMDENTON, MO, United States 06-01-11
    Loyola CAMDENTON, MO, United States 06-01-11 Member Since 2008

    A former accountant and staff trainer. Now retired, I enjoy knitting and weaving. I enjoy intelligent, insightful books with lead characters I respect. I deplore novels fille with gratuitous violence and depraved sexual behavior written to shock the reader.

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    "interesting story, excellent narration"

    For me, this was an interesting story and very good narration. I looked forward to each listening installment.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Nicki 06-23-11
    Nicki 06-23-11
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    "Wanted to love it - just didn't"

    WASP marries daughter of Korean immigrants and goes into business with his in-laws by purchasing a deli. Sounds fun, right? Sounds like great potential for story telling, right? Sounds as if the clash between uptight Caucasian son-in-law, Asian in-laws, and various employees and customers of all races and cultures would be interesting, insightful and amusing, right?

    Well, it's not. The author seems to be trying for some sort of deprecating humor; listing his inability to use the cash register, ordering "yuppie" high end items that would never find a buyer in his deli, sells alcohol to a minor, and on and on. He comes off as rather dull, not funny.

    He talks about his voyage to self-discovery, but I guess I missed the part where he boarded this boat.

    4 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    g Los Angeles, CA, United States 04-21-13
    g Los Angeles, CA, United States 04-21-13 Member Since 2014

    I am an audio book addict. Love staging the drama in my head, especially psychological intrigue and mysteries.

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    "Less than delicious tale"

    Ben Ryder Howe seems not to know what story he wants to tell, consequently a novel that had great potential turns out to be a self indulgent diary with chatter about a guy opening a store with his Korean wife and mother-in-law and his experience in a struggling magazine publishing business. The experiences with the Korean mother-in-law, was fun and insightful. Too bad, the author did not trust his ability to expand this story and instead meandered between story lines that provided neither dramatic or comic satisfaction. The narrator, is as excellent I look forward to hearing him narrate another novel). However, the story is anything but delicious.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jami VICTOR, NY, United States 11-27-14
    Jami VICTOR, NY, United States 11-27-14 Member Since 2013
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    "Insider's View of a Deli"

    This was an entertaining story about the author's experience buying a deli. I liked how he interspersed his deli experience with his time as a journalist. For me, the best parts were when he talked about his employees and customers in the context of the NYC deli. This is a light and quick read, which was perfect to listen to during my commute time. The narration by Bronson Pinchot was quite good, and it was an enjoyable listening experience.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Clyde A. Warden Jr. Taiwan (http://cwarden.org) 11-17-13
    Clyde A. Warden Jr. Taiwan (http://cwarden.org) 11-17-13 Member Since 2011
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    "Not Culturally Deep"
    Would you try another book from Ben Ryder Howe and/or Bronson Pinchot?

    Maybe, if he developed a strong voice and a better topic.


    What was most disappointing about Ben Ryder Howe’s story?

    The writing in competent, but lacks a strong voice. It is almost like an assignment--write a novel on a topic you know something about. The cultural insights are nearly none, simply projecting from the main character on to his Korean family and friends. There is no real effort at understanding the Korean side of things, which maybe is the way the situation went down. If so, I really do not desire to here an American wine about things and admit how helpless he is. This lack of ability even extends to the business side of the story, with the main character unable to even main the cash register. I was hoping for cultural insight, and some small business experience, but neither are here.


    How could the performance have been better?

    Remove the shallow Korean accent attributed to the mother-in-law character, Kay. This made it sound very insulting. Why not put a spin on Howe's accent, which must have some distinct aspects to a Korean ear? I have not seen the printed book, but if the dialogue from Kay is written with a stereotyped accent, I would be most surprised.


    What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

    Shame, as I had to turn off the player when any of my Asian friends or family walked into the room due to the insulting Korean accent attributed to the mother-in-law character.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Matthew BERKELEY, CA, United States 04-22-12
    Matthew BERKELEY, CA, United States 04-22-12
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    "Great Writing / Even Better Narration"

    I loved this book. Ben Howe is a terrific writer who captures the culture clash of his family and adopted neighborhood with a wonderfully self-deprecating sense of humor. I'm surprised to see some readers comment that the narration is weak. I think Bronson Pinchot captures these characters perfectly. (As one reader commented, the George Plimpton impression alone is worth the price of admission.) This is a book I can imagine listening to again. Great fun! Highly recommended.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Martha NEW ORLEANS, LA, United States 04-13-12
    Martha NEW ORLEANS, LA, United States 04-13-12 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Good book, bad narrator"

    I enjoyed the book, and I appreciated the complexity of the characters. However, the author writes with a subtle and very funny irony, but the narrator played it as a broad farce. It made the book seem juvenile rather than literary. He really missed the point, and I had to keep compensating for his dumbing-down of a lovely and touching story.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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