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Coffee & Kung Fu | review | book | Lollipop

Coffee & Kung Fu

by Karen Brichoux
(New American Library, 243 pages, $12.95)
by Chad Van Wagner

I think I'm one of three straight men on the planet that doesn't mind "chick flicks" per se. Apparently, the good Mr. Hefflon knew this when he sent me Karen Brichoux's debut novel Coffee & Kung Fu which, despite being a novel, is about as "chick flick" as you can get.

Before you jump on me about pigeonholing this book, be aware that the press sheet explicitly refers to this book as "chick lit." Twice. Normally, this kind of thing wouldn't bear mentioning, but Coffee & Kung Fu is all about the conventions of the genre: Smart but confused woman almost hooks up with the wrong guy and narrowly escapes Soccer Mom Hell. Granted, there are a few twists: The heroine ("Nicci") sees everything through the filter of Jackie Chan movies (The early ones, at that. A woman after my own heart.)

Like Chan, Brichoux is uninterested in creating new narrative boundaries. Like her heroine's idol, it's all in the attitude, and what you bring to the table. And, even though it's painfully obvious where this book is going after the first twenty pages, Nicci is a compelling (and sympathetic) enough character that you don't mind. While the guy in me admittedly balks a bit at the way men are portrayed (mostly boorish assholes, except for the perfect grandfather and the perfect – and utterly vapid – Mr. Right), it's no worse than the way women were portrayed in the last Jerry Bruckheimer flick, and I wasn't whining then. Well, OK, I was, but it had nothing to do with the characters.

While I can't in good conscience recommend this to any men, Coffee & Kung Fu is a well-put-together novel, as agreeable as any you're likely to find this year. Could have used a few more explosions, though.


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