The last of three in a roundup of local book reviews, where I weigh in on why there’s barely any sushi in the first book in Camy Tang’s new series.

Sushi for One?
By Camy Tang
Zondervan; 346 pages; $12.99

Reviewed by Christine Thomas
Published in the Honolulu Advertiser 11.18.07

Some say thirty is the new twenty, but not if you’re Lex Sakai, Camy Tang’s single, volleyball-obsessed protagonist. As her family’s next OSFC (oldest single female cousin), her semi-traditional Japanese grandmother has decided that Lex is too old to be unmarried. First she has to find a boyfriend—even if he’s Christian as Lex insists—and in just four months or Grandma will stop funding the girls volleyball team Lex coaches. The problem? Lex hasn’t dated for eight years, since a past incident—undisclosed for much of the novel but nonetheless obvious—led her to fear men and convert to Christianity with three cousins.

This straightforward if somewhat dubious foundation motors the plot of “Sushi for One?” the first novel in a forthcoming series by Tang, who grew up in Wahiawa and now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. Despite some awkward descriptions and repetition, the prose eventually balances out and Lex becomes a likeable if stubborn, self-absorbed, gruff character. Yet the issues Tang sets out to explore only cursorily populate the story that unfolds.

Other than a few nondenominational reminders to be calm in the face of irritation, the book lacks all but superficial focus on religion; Lex shuns cultural mores for personal rather than spiritual ones. And whereas the novel tries to spotlight multi-cultural themes from a fourth-generation perspective, it succeeds more as a tale of a woman of any race confronting her past. Even the title misleads, for though Lex eats with relish, in odd defiance of purported pride in her 18-inch waist, don’t expect much sushi.

Where Tang’s novel finds solid ground is in the frank but amusing exploration of a sheltered girl’s transition to aware, independent living, shedding fears and pushing forward even in the face of intense challenges.