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 of a client, an attractive man of few words. When an old American friend comes to town, the two of them are pulled into the controversy surrounding Gretchen’s cousin, the only male grandchild and the heir apparent to Lin’s Soy Sauce.
In the midst of increasing pressure from her father to remain permanently in Singapore - and pressure from her mother to do just the opposite - Gretchen must decide whether she will return to her marriage and her graduate studies at the San Francisco Conservatory, or sacrifice everything and join her family’s crusade to spread artisanal soy sauce to the world.
Soy Sauce for Beginners reveals the triumphs and sacrifices that shape one woman’s search for a place to call home, and the unexpected art and tradition behind the brewing of a much-used but unsung condiment. The result is a foodie love story that will give listeners a hearty appreciation for family loyalty and fresh starts.
©2013 Kirstin Chen (P)2013 Brilliance Audio, all rights reserved.
Kristin Chen's story is an enjoyable coming-of-age or finding-my-true-self kind of book. It's not earth shattering, but the right amount of personal input from the author to make you believe and care about Gretchen and her family. Chen creates a Gretchen as protagonist in which readers can find a connection. Sometimes that connection was a little too close to home and I wanted reach into the story to whisper to Gretchen: "How can you say/do that! Don't you see..." The supporting cast reinforces the relief between the two worlds (California and Singapore) Gretchen navigates. The ending maybe a little predictable, but I think that is the point of the story: Gretchen finds her way into a choice that makes sense for her and the person she has, and wishes, to become. May we all find that.
It was easy to listen to Nancy Wu's narration. This book uses different English voices (Californian American, 'good' Singaporean English, Australian English) as well as Singlish, and Chinese. I can't say how authentic Wu's interpretation of each are, but she did a good job of making them palatable to my American ear. I wish Wu had done a little research for the lyrics excerpted. I get it that a narrator may not be able to sing lyrics, but she could have gotten the phrasing and syllable emphasis correct and mimic a little of the tonal qualities of the songs. It was very distracting that she read them in monotone and with completely different phrasing. All in all I would listen to another narration by Nancy Wu, as long as there were no lyrics or poems.
Great story! I would also give the narrator an A+!!! She had the Singapore dialect down perfectly when quoting other characters.
No. I'm Singaporean and this a thoroughly inauthentic and downright painful stab at a performance that kills the experience. A wholly cringe-worthy listen that does not represent the characters accurately. Will be sure to avoid Wu's performances avidly.
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