In Full Bloom
Caroline Hwang
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In Full Bloom

Caroline Hwang
256 pages
March 2004
rated 4 1/2 of 5 possible stars

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With the many chick-lit books that have recently flooded the market, itís necessary now for an author to write about something unique to make her book stand out. Caroline Hwang has done that with her novel In Full Bloom. Although her character, Ginger Lee, must face many of the same challenges normal chick-lit heroines doócareer problems, dating problems, identity problemsóGingerís story takes on a twist. Not only is she a single girl in her late 20s trying to stand out in her career, but sheís also a Korean-American woman who is struggling with who she is while trying to fend off her mother, who has recently moved in with her to find her a Korean man to marry.

Ginger Lee has never really decided who she is. Her polygamous father left them when she was a young child to be with his other family, and her mother struggled to raise her and her brother in a country she barely understood. Gingerís identity was further confused when her mother disowned her older brother for marrying a white woman. Now Ginger is a college drop-out, unsure what she wants to do for a career and unsure of how she can ever develop a meaningful relationship when sheís forbidden to date white men and sheís not attracted to Koreans.

Gingerís life is turned upside-down when her small yet extremely powerful mother moves in with her to snag her a Korean husband and, in the process, help Ginger get promoted at her job working for a fashion magazine. Ginger resents her motherís interference, yet canít break the strong bond that connects her to her lonely mom. Time and time again, she gets caught up in her momís crazy plans to break up a friendís sonís engagement and set her up with any eligible Korean she can find.

The joy of this book lies in the jumbled world Ginger lives in and the colorful characters who populate it. Her mother is a force of nature, a whirlwind of a woman who uses a flurry of activity to hide her incredible loneliness at losing her husband and only son. There is also Bobby, the gay Korean man who is trying to please his family be arranging a sham marriage with a lesbian and, of course, Ginger herself. Each character is flawed, but each also exhibits plenty of traits to make the reader care about them.

Caroline Hwang has created a book that successfully merges a fish-out-of-water story with the world of high fashion. She sweetens the deal even more by providing a character with a background that we rarely see in chick-lit. All of this comes together to make a sweet, funny and genuinely enjoyable novel that will surely please a variety of readers.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Angela McQuay, 2004

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