Funny enough, this book made me crave ramen. What can I say, I prefer ramen to pho.
I received an advance reader’s copy (ARC) of A Pho Love Story by Loan Le. Since this version is just a proof and not the final version, I won’t quote directly and will keep my comments general.
Linh Mai and Bao Nguyen work at their respective families’ pho restaurants, which have been in not-so-friendly rivalry for years. But when Linh and Bao encounter each other by chance, they get along against all the odds. As they tentatively begin to bridge the gap between them, they start to have real feelings for each other. However, neither is sure what to do about this—they don’t want to let their parents down, but both are starting to wonder if this old familial animosity can be mended.
So, yes, on the surface, this premise is similar to Romeo and Juliet (you know, two restaurants both alike in dignity, in fair California where we lay our scene…) but the difference is, this book is fun.
I like both Linh and Bao—they’re both witty and sweet, with distinct ways of seeing the world through their creative passions. Linh’s talent at painting is especially well written, and that talent is what drives her character development. She doesn’t want to let down her parents, who want her to go into a scientific field, so she grapples with feelings of shame about wanting to pursue a career in the arts. But in the end, her story is quite uplifting.
Bao’s journey to finding something he is interested in—in his case, writing—is not explored in quite as much depth, but is still well done. And the banter between the two characters is decent, which is always a must for me. I especially liked how smitten Bao was immediately with Linh; it was really endearing.
The other characters, especially Linh’s and Bao’s parents, are wonderful. This is a romcom largely fueled by family drama, and those scenes really shine. I loved the way the relationships developed between parent and child; the discussions of family history and expectations for the future are so well written.
In the end, A Pho Love Story is a book about finding your passion, repairing old wounds, and moving toward a future where you can be authentically yourself. The romance is endearing, the characters excellent, and the drama well-paced and well-handled. While I wasn’t completely blown away by this debut, I still really enjoyed this book! Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be off to buy some ramen—you know, for the irony.
Overall rating: 8.5/10
A Pho Love Story will be published on February 19th, 2021!