"The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." — Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Sushi for One? by Camy Tang

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Summary: A Chinese/Japanese American-born woman is pressured by her family to get married.

You can't pin me down; I admit it. I like many varied kinds of books - memoirs, historical romances, teen vampire fiction, Christian romance (but never Amish-themed books), fantasy fiction, self-help books. You can't classify me as one reader or another.

And that was my problem with this book - it didn't have a clear cut identity.  I started reading a Camy Tang book because most of her characters feature Asian women. My middle daughter is adopted from China and I'd like her to identify with the characters she sees on my books, as much as my biological son looks for dragons and my biological daughter thinks she's Rapunzel. I didn't finish the first Camy Tang book I picked up because I found it rather implausible.  I thought I'd give Tang's best-known series a try - maybe she writes Christian romance better than Christian suspense.

Lex Sakai is a Chinese/Japanese American-born woman pressured by her grandmother to find a husband. Of her group of cousins, Lex will be the Oldest Single Female Cousin, once their cousin gets married in a few months. The pressure is on for Lex to marry. Grandma even goes to far as to threaten to withdraw her funding of Lex's beloved youth volleyball team if Lex doesn't bring a boyfriend (and not just a date) to the upcoming wedding. I do enjoy this particular plot device - marry or you'll lose your fortune.

If that's not enough, Lex's father sells the house they've been sharing and Lex must find her own place. When conditions at work become intolerable, Lex quits and regrets only the loss of the paycheck. Also complicating the boyfriend hunt is that Lex is still traumatized, almost 10 years later, by an unreported rape. The rapist was Caucasian, as well, so Lex will only consider Asian men as part of her dating pool. I say Asian, because Lex Sakai is a Japanese name, but she's also Chinese, yet doesn't speak Japanese or Chinese. And she's not Buddhist. And in Lex's Bible study group, she complies a list of her ideal husband's features from Ephesians. Lex will only date Christians. Lex makes a point of mentioning that her family is Buddhist, but doesn't really explore her conversion to Christianity, something that did interest me as a reader because fighting her family for her faith must have been difficult, not just annoying, although Lex seems annoyed by most of her family.

Lex's love of sports actually does translate into a job perfectly suited to her, an alumni liaison for college sports teams. Suddenly, men are falling over Lex, hoping that by dating her, they can see their favorite college games. Lex resists, mostly because the men still give her the creeps, but she really is trying to find someone. Lex also tries to raise the money on her own, but her grandmother has warned the entire Asian community not to give her funding.

When Lex gets an invite to try out for a prestigious competitive volleyball league, she uses the money she would have spent on a house payment as the entrance fee, and trains vigorously. She gets in, and then in an instant, suffers an injury that almost certainly spells the end of her volleyball career. Her physical trainer, Aiden, fits none of the requirements on her list - he's white, he's skeptical of Christians and Christianity; he seems poor and Lex is NOT attracted to him. But Lex does feel comfortable with him, enjoying their banter, allowing him to touch her body as part of the therapy. Aiden knows just how much to push her, reading her competitive spirit quite well. But Aiden's not a Christian, and not Asian, so he has to be out.

When Lex is on a date with another prospective husband, he turns overly aggressive, and Lex freaks out, flashing back to the rape. While running away, she injures her knee again, and Aiden rescues her. She discovers that Aiden has been going to church and what she thought was friendship was the beginning of something special. Things end well, and I worried throughout the book if Lex's prickly nature would alienate everyone who loves her.

Sushi is barely mentioned in the book. It's a cute title, and makes you think Japanese, but given Lex's love of volleyball, perhaps a better title would have been "Serving Up Love" or "Game, Set & Matched," something like that. I came up with that in thirty seconds, so a marketing team could do an even better job with all their time and creativity. Just like the title didn't quite fit, and made me a little fidgety, a few other notes just seemed wrong, so I was disappointed. One of Lex's cousins was overweight and lost a ton of weight through a stomach virus. Wha??? That rarely happens. Having Lex be Japanese wasn't crucial to the plot at all (neither was the sushi title), and with many black or Hispanic main characters their specific ethnicity does flavor the book in measurable ways; not so with this one. Despite all that, I will be reading the next book in the Sushi Series, featuring another of Lex's cousin. Perhaps it's because I didn't quite warm to Lex's fierce outlook on life, or her stubborn refusal of any help of therapy for her obvious PTSD.

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