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Soy Sauce for Beginners [Kindle Edition]

Kirstin Chen
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)

Print List Price: £8.99
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Book Description

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 readers a hearty appreciation for family loyalty and fresh starts.

Selected as one of O Magazine’s “7 Books That Will Transport You to Another World”

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“Gretchen’s journey of self-discovery forms the backbone of this story about family, tradition, and honor. Foodies will appreciate the behind-the-scenes look at the world of artisanal soy sauce, while others will enjoy Chen’s tribute to her native Singapore.” —Booklist

"Kirstin Chen's debut is a delicious page-turning treat. Chen captures the zeitgeist of Singapore's new generation in an engrossing, intimately layered tale of love, family, and the discovery of one's true calling. It will also turn every reader into an artisanal soy sauce aficionado willing to settle for nothing but the best." —Kevin Kwan, author of Crazy Rich Asians

"Soy Sauce for Beginners is an engaging story about a young woman's journey through love and friendship, business and family as she seeks her own place in the world. A satisfying and insightful novel." —Jill McCorkle, author of Life After Life

"At the center of this novel is a struggling family business, but its bright heart is the difficult business of family. Written with warmth, umami and humor, Soy Sauce for Beginners considers the intricacies of inheritance and the challenges of safeguarding tradition. Kirstin Chen has written a spirited novel of self-discovery." —Amber Dermont, author of The Starboard Sea

"Kirstin Chen evokes with wonderful brio the conflicts of a family business, and of a family. Reading these vivid pages made me want to catch the next plane to Singapore. Or failing that read another absorbing chapter. A sparkling debut." —Margot Livesey, author of The Flight of Gemma Hardy

About the Author

Kirstin Chen was born and raised in Singapore. A former Steinbeck Fellow in Creative Writing, she currently resides in San Francisco.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 961 KB
  • Print Length: 258 pages
  • Publisher: Amazon Publishing (1 Jan. 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • : Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #32,677 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars nostalgic hit and close to home 14 Jan. 2014
Format:Kindle Edition
apologies for the poor punctuation, typing via kindle is not an easy feat. the book is a pleasant surprise for a kindle daily deal. perhaps being asian, chinese, lived in singapore and moving many times around the world, the book is especially poignant. while this is not an excuse to be selfish, whom has not been stuck in a static state and acted out when life throws you a curveball? and also being an avid fan of kikkoman, i understand the importance of soy sauce. i love this book and the subtle observations of daily life resonated really well with me. perhaps not to the level of introversion extraodinaire jhumpa lahiri but a fantastic debut, nevertheless. will be looking forward to the next book.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not a bad read at all 8 Jan. 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is a book which took me a while to get into, but once I did I quite enjoyed the read. It is the story of Gretchen who returns to Singapore and the family soy sauce factory after years of living in San Francisco following the break up of her marriage. I really enjoyed reading about the factory and the history of it, as well as Singapore itself. As for the food descriptions, well they just made me hungry although I found it ironic that surrounded by all the wonderful food, Gretchen preferred to eat junk food most of the time.

It is a story of family traditions versus the modern way of life and about the choices we have to make in life. Should Gretchen stay and help run the factory which would please her father or should she return to San Francisco which would please her mother? Is there a place for her in either city? Sometimes I felt the story was just a little unnecessarily wordy, although every now and then there are some real pearls of chinese wisdom in there.

Whilst on the whole I enjoyed the read, I think I would have preferred it more if Gretchen had been a nicer person. She came across as not really wanting to get involved with anyone, even her own family, and in her own mind she could be quite scathing about her friends at times and didn't really treat any of them particularly well. For the most part the story is quite slow moving as it builds up all the background information but I did think the last couple of chapters, when Gretchen finally makes up her mind what she wants to do felt a little rushed.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A gentle read 26 Sept. 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I thoroughly enjoyed this story. Many other reviewers have given a synopsis of the book which I will not repeat. It may be predictable but, actually, I didn't find it distracting. I thought it was well written and, in fact, I found the writing style reminded me of Pat Jackson's Too Long To Die (another excellent book). My only criticism is that I don't think that September is the beginning of summer in San Francisco - unless I have misread the paragraph!

A great story and I can't wait for the next book.

P.S. How about some of these fantastic recipes using soy sauce being added at the end? Just a suggestion!!!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
The descriptions of the making of soy sauce to the traditional recipe were fascinating and the story of the family dynamics which were woven around the history of the product made wonderful reading. I loved it!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Soy sauce for Beginners" 1 July 2014
By jonty
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
An unusual choice for me but I quite enjoyed the change, there were some unusual and funny parts to the story which I liked.
A good read if unusual.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Not a cookbook or travelogue 18 Oct. 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
About to visit Singapore I chose this book hoping it would introduce me to the delights of this small Asian country, in this respect I was disappointed but I enjoyed learning the process of producing Soy sauce and grappled with the complicated life and mind of Gretchen, disappointed in love and torn between two cultures. The story proves how difficult it can be growing up within ones own mindset.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Easy going 6 Aug. 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A gentle story about a woman taking over the running of her family's soy sauce company in Singapore. A nice introduction to the country and an undemanding read. This isn't meant to be great art but it's well written and manages to create a sense of nostalgia for a time and country that I've never lived in.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Nice read 1 July 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A good read about our love for those in our lives; partner, family and friends.
Chen highlights he importance and influence of these relationships in our lives.
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