This book is a particular treat for me to review, because the author
is a friend of mine from back in my undergrad days---and, in fact, a
former MITSFS keyholder as well. When she told me about the book she
was writing, it sounded interesting, so I ordered a copy: support your
local artist! So mostly I was hoping it just wouldn't be bad, fearing
that I might find myself awkwardly not wanting to mention it in future
conversations. And then I opened it up, and it blew me away.
"Terroryaki" is a fun short novel that quickly and lightly dances
through a tale of cross-cultural relationships and the asian-american
experience, salted heavily with ghosts, pirates, cursed teriyaki, and
nerd snark. Only a few pages in, I was actually laughing out loud, as
the narrator describes her sister as a person who "fails the Bechdel
test"---a sexism test for movies which asks whether there is ever a
conversation between two female characters that is not about
relationships. Ms. Chung deftly paints her characters with a mix of
humor and tenderness, so that I found myself sympathizing with the
sister even as she flounced through her drama-queen moves, and with
the mother's distance and loss even as she nonsensically berates her
children. And, of course, with the cursed ghost pirate chef.
This is the sort of book where you can basically see where the plot is
going, but never care because the point is how it will get you there
and what interesting things will be seen to the side along the way.
Like how, in between chapters, there are blog posts by the narrator,
reviewing the best and worst imaginary teriyaki joints in the Seattle
area, each one a little pearl of authorial invention. I savored the
book across three days, though it's short enough to be read in a
single solid evening. A fine first novel, and I hope that Ms. Chung
will continue to write.