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Kirstin Chen Books In Order

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Publication Order of Standalone Novels

Soy Sauce for Beginners (2014)Description / Buy at Amazon
Bury What We Cannot Take (2018)Description / Buy at Amazon
Counterfeit (2022)Description / Buy at Amazon
Koizora (With: Natsuo Kirino) (2022)Description / Buy at Amazon

Publication Order of Anthologies

Best New Singaporean Short Stories: Volume Two(2015)Description / Buy at Amazon
UNION: 50 Years of Writing from Singapore and 15 Years of Drunken Boat(2015)Description / Buy at Amazon
Best Singaporean Short Stories 1(2020)Description / Buy at Amazon

Kirstin Chen is a mystery and general fiction author Born and brought up in Singapore. She is a New York bestselling author of three books.

The author has received several awards from Sewanee, Napa Valley Writer’s Conference, Steinbeck Fellows Program, and Hedgebrook. Bury What We Cannot Take was named the Most anticipated Book of 2018 by Electric Literature, The Rumpus, The Millions, and Book Hub.

Her short stories appeared in Hobart, Zyzzyva, and Pank, and the Best New Singaporean Short stories

Ava Wang is a thirty-seven-year-old Chinese American who has always played things safe as a rule obeying a Chinese American Lawyer married to a surgeon husband. She has a young son, and her family is beautiful and amazing; where she has built a perfect life for them.

However, Ava’s world is falling apart under this façade of her family’s perfect picture life. Her marriage is not working, her law degree hasn’t been in practice for years, and her young child’s tantrums are pushing her to the edge. Everything has hit the wall even after spending her entire life doing everything she was supposed to do.
She is sad but isn’t able to admit it, and it comes as no surprise when she gets involved with her one-time roommate in College when she suddenly appears in her life after over 20 years.

Ava’s getting to her breaking point since nothing is working out as planned. Her surgeon husband is always working and doesn’t get time for his family.
Then there is Winnie Fang, Ava’s puzzling college roommate from Mainland China, who suddenly dropped out under mysterious circumstances. It’s now twenty years later when she is looking to reunite with her old friend.

Ava soon realizes a confident woman has replaced the shy and weird girl she knew. She’s dripping in luxury things, including a classic Birkin bag. Ava wonders what the secret to her success is.

Winnie had developed a creative counterfeit plot that involved importing almost exact copies of luxury handbags, and now she is looking for someone holding a U.S passport to help in the management of the business.

She needs someone who will never be suspected of wrongdoing, and Ava fits the position. Ava even travels to China to visit business partners and the factories where the fake bas are made. However, when the striking success is threatened, Winnie disappears, and Ava is left behind to deal with the consequences of the shady activities. It’s up to her to decide how best to play in the case.

The novel is divided into several parts; the first one is from Ava’s perspective, where she narrates her experiences with his college friend and her issues to the detective handling the case. As the story unfolds, the author allows the reader to realize that Ava is self-centered with her insecurities. Winnie takes advantage of her by making her unwilling to participate in her wicked business.

Ava’s child, Henri’s behavior, adds a layer of complexity to his mother’s arc as her parenting skills demonstrate her attitude towards life. The story takes a satirical look at the culture and brand counterfeits.

Ava tried playing safe, portraying herself as a strong woman until she couldn’t anymore. Be sure to come across secrets, multiple lies upon lies, corruption, shocks, and blackmail. The story is engrossing enough to keep overnight flipping pages. It’s about a counterfeit business gone south and the consequences that follow. It also explores recent political, economic, and social issues like trade relationships, immigration, racism, Anti-Asian Sentiment, and American Dream.
Even though there are some serious themes, the author adds some lightheartedness to the story to make a well-balanced novel. The story also explores motherhood culture and social class as Kristen tries to use the reader’s expectations provocatively.

Kristen Chen weaved a quick and enjoyable read throwing in some surprises through twists and turns to keep the reader craving to know more. The main characters are relatable as they try to fraud clueless rich women and the police while earning a good profit.
Soy Sauce for Beginners
Gretchen isn’t sure what she wants in life and is stuck between the eastern half and her Western half, wondering whether she wasted her potential in music. Due to all of this, she isn’t able to figure life out and often hangs out with the wrong people who can’t relate.

She has spent most of her life in the U.S. through high school, college, and marriage. Now she has decided to return to her home for a break from her straining marriage and career. However, her home appears to have issues with her mother having kidney failure and her family business not doing well.

In this novel, Kristen Chen explores the dichotomy between modernity and tradition. When Gretchen’s marriage breaks, she leaves San Francisco and returns to her home in Singapore. There she finds herself face to face with the troublesome twins she has tried to avoid since she matured.

Her mother still has a severe drinking problem, and the machinations of her father’s soy sauce business are still going on. When she finds herself in the same circle with her family, Gretchen struggles with the tension between filial duty and personal desire.

However, she gets time to explore a new romance with the son of one of the clients. He’s charming, attractive, and a man of fewer words. When an old friend comes to town, the two find themselves puled in a controversy about Gretchen’s cousin, the only grandson, and heir to Lin’s Soy Sauce.

In the middle of the mounting pressure from her father to forever stay in Singapore and form her mother only do the opposite. Gretchen has to decide whether she’ll return to her marriage and studies at the San Francisco Conservatory or join her family to spread the artisanal soy sauce worldwide.

Gretchen is a complex but relatable character who’s intelligent and talented with a screwed-up life. The story will have you wondering when one’s duty to their family ends. Might it be when one creates their own family?

The novel Soy Sauce for Beginners is a revelation of the triumphs and sacrifices that mold one woman’s looking for a place to call home and the tradition behind the making of unsung condiments.

Book Series In Order » Authors » Kirstin Chen

2 Responses to “Kirstin Chen”

  1. David Rowlands: 1 year ago

    Dear Book Series In Order, what part of Koizora was written by Natsuo Kirino, please? Also, is it available as a printed book? Yours, David Rowlands

    • Graeme: 1 year ago

      I am unsure as to how the collaboration went with that one. And it does not appear to be available as a printed book at this time. Ebook only.


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