From the back cover:
If there’s one thing these three friends can agree on, it’s that being a high achieving Asian-American woman can mean a lot of pressure. Whitney Lee works at a law firm, but no one – not even her best friends – knows about her fantasies of making it as a singer. Restaurateur Hercules Huang is poised to be the next big name in the cooking world, but her strained relationship with her unassimilated father mars her accomplishments. Audrey Henley, the adopted daughter of Texas billionaires, is thrilled when her less than wealthy boyfriend proposes, but her mother worries that Audrey is repeating the mistakes Mrs. Henley made decades ago.
They’re the closest of friends, who still need to learn to trust one another. But through dinners, a weekend getaway, and shared setups and letdowns, these three realize that sometimes, to live the life of your dreams, all you have to do is let go of the need to be perfect…
When I first heard about Off the Menu, I was definitely intrigued. As the daughter of Indian parents, I’ve always been drawn to stories about other first-generationers with immigrant parents. Even if it’s not the same culture, there’s always a common thread of misunderstandings and the inherent difficulty of understanding the behavior parents that grew up in a foreign culture (and vice versa). Every time I finish one of these novels, I have an new respect for my parents and their views on American culture. I feel like I understand my parents pretty well now (though that wasn’t always the case), but I still felt like there were things to be taken away from Off the Menu.
To put it succinctly, I really enjoyed this book. I thought it was well-written and very smart. I was surprised that this was the author’s debut novel – judging from the character development, that would not have been my guess. The three main characters, Whitney, Audrey, and Hercules (that name took me awhile to get used to – but the reason behind it is explained in the book) are funny, smart, and easy to relate to. They endure their share of personal and professional struggles and are easy to sympathize with.
The main idea behind this book is trust. First of all, you have to trust yourself enough to be able to explore what it is you really want. Like Whitney, too many of us refuse to acknowledge what is hidden inside because we are afraid of what it means. It’s not always as big as a career change, but it is important to trust ourselves. Second, you have to confide in other people. As the reader watches the relationships between the three protaganists change, it is easy to see how it benefits them through the course of the novel. Trust is the key to this novel, and it’s an important message.
Off the Menu is funny, heartwarming, and charming. I sincerely believe that anyone would enjoy it and be able to appreciate it for the fine debut novel that it is. I look forward to reading more from Christine Son!