A Pho Love Story by Loan Le
I have been on a foodie reading kick this year* (is that a thing?), so when I saw the cover of A Pho Love Story, I requested it from Edelweiss and started reading it as soon as it was available for download (Thanks, Edelweiss!!!). Just like I would do to the pho from either Bao Nguyen or Linh Mai’s families’ restaurants, I devoured it.
Bao and Linh are first-generation Vietnamese-Americans. Both of their parents own warring restaurants directly across the street from each other. Although Bao and Linh have known of each other their entire lives, they are not allowed to speak. This was never a problem until they started noticing each other. And then there was the day Bao saw Linh in distress in the alley outside of her restaurant and he helped her. And then the school newspaper editor paired the two to write and illustrate food reviews. Now their parents’ orders to stay away from each other are definitely a problem. As they visit local restaurants together, they get to know each other (hmm… these newspaper assignments feel awfully date-like . . .) and realize their circumstances are very similar. They wonder how long they can hide their friendship (and maybe more than friendship) from their families (spoiler alert: not long) and are determined to discover the true cause of their parents’ dispute.
Although A Pho Love Story definitely qualifies as a Rom-Com (totes adorbs cover, meet-cute, enemies to lovers trope, etc.), there’s some real substance here, too, especially in regards to Bao and Linh’s immigrant parents. They want so much for their children (truly, it’s their lives’ purpose) they can’t allow themselves to be happy, pleased, and proud of the unique kids they’ve raised (not every American kid needs to be a doctor or lawyer, y’all). Author, Loan Lee, gives a nice look at the value of the arts (in Bao and Linh’s case, a writer and a painter) as a viable career - a message young adults need to hear! Finally, I can’t believe Lee is a debut novelist! Her first book’s birthday was just days ago and I’m already excited to read what she’ll write next!
* Mastering the Art of French Eating, Relish, Modern Comfort Food, A Pho Love Story