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
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.
“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)
Multicultural literary entertainment
No other book is like it.
Running a deli is harder than it looks. And I loved hearing about George Plimpton. Bronson Pinchot's rendering of the upper class New York accent was priceless.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
For me, this was an interesting story and very good narration. I looked forward to each listening installment.
I am an audio book addict. Love staging the drama in my head, especially psychological intrigue and mysteries.
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.
The story is funny and poignant but the narration makes the book since the narrator does such a great job with the accents, bringing extra personality to the characters.
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.
Maybe, if he developed a strong voice and a better topic.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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