Born in Iloilo City, Philippines; married David Brichoux. Education: Earned B.A.; graduate study.
Coffee and Kung Fu, New American Library (New York, NY), 2003.
Separation Anxiety, New American Library (New York, NY), 2004.
The Girl She Left Behind, New American Library (New York, NY), 2005.
Falling into the World, NAL Accent (New York, NY), 2006.
Karen Brichoux grew up and was educated in the Philippines, and as a college student moved to the United States. She noted on her Home Page that her first novel, Coffee and Kung Fu, contains elements of her life. "I grew up in the Philippines. I did go to boarding school. I love Kung Fu movies. And I was crazy about my grandpa." A Kirkus Reviews contributor, who called Coffee and Kung Fu "warm, smart, and original," also said that Brichoux has come up with "a bright, fresh, exciting new spin on the [Gen-X chick-lit] genre."
The protagonist of the novel, Nicci Bradford, daughter of a missionary and raised in the Philippines, is a copy editor at a Boston advertising agency. She is a solitary person whose obsession with low-budget, action-comedy Jackie Chan movies carries over into and forms her philosophy about her life. Nicci's friendship with Carol is threatened when Carol's husband tries to seduce her. Other characters in the novel include Nicci's coworkers, such as Melissa, who is sleeping with the boss; sister Beth; and a grandfather who gives her advice before he dies. Despite friends and family, Nicci feels lonely and isolated until she meets Ethan, who works at the neighborhood coffee shop. Sidetracked by an affair with a client of the agency—wealthy boat dealer Rob, who excites her sexually but fails to stimulate her intellectually—she eventually takes a chance on Ethan.
Women's Review of Books contributor Margaret Weigel wrote that "like Bridget Jones' Diary, Kung Fu relies on the first-person voice of a protagonist whose relationship with media provides insight into the character's mindset and motivations. Bridget's medium is her diary; Nicci's is her King Fu movies, which serve as a handy mirror of her life and support a tenet in her belief system." Romance Reader Web site contributor Susan Scribner concluded that "the novel's frequent references to Kung Fu movies provide a distinctive theme and structure. But even without those differences, Coffee and Kung Fu would be a success because of debut author Karen Brichoux's skilled writing style that strikes the right balance between humor and poignancy."
Separation Anxiety, Brichoux's second novel, revolves around two people who grow up friends in a small prairie town. Wichita Gray and Jonah Liakos come from troubled families and have always relied on each other. When they graduate from high school, they move to Chicago to work in a museum. Because Wichita feels she is only seen as one half of "Wichita and Jonah," she decides to become an individual by breaking off their friendship. Her life is complicated when her troubled younger sister, Geena, comes to Chicago, expecting to be cared for by Wichita. On the All about Romance Web site, reviewer Lynn Spencer noted that the book, with its themes of family, identity, and relationships, could be classified more as women's fiction than the "chick lit" novels that revolve around dating and job angst. "The action in this story is more internal than external," wrote Spencer, "with the journey here more emotional than physical. Brichoux does an excellent job of bringing the reader into the inner lives of her characters, making for a very touching novel."
Brichoux's third novel, The Girl She Left Behind, tells a circular tale of Katherine Earle, who, as a high school student could not wait to get away from her small Montana hometown. At eighteen she left to marry a musician and move to Los Angeles, not bothering to tell her best friend or the great aunt who raised her. With her life coming apart three years later, Katherine returns to her hometown, now facing some hard choices about the future. Reviewing this novel on the Book-Loons Web site, Shannon Bigham found the writing "thoughtful and even soulful," but void of "the oomph of a fully satisfying read." A reviewer for Curled Up With a Good Book had similar concerns, but concluded that The Girl She Left Behind is "an interesting and unique coming of age story."
The author's 2006 novel, Falling Into the World, deals with another young woman who returns to her insular hometown. In this case, Augustina Fletcher gave up a college degree to care for her badly injured father. Years later when she is about to marry a lawyer from her small town, she realizes that her future husband's shrewish mother could be a major hindrance. The sudden return of Augustina's flighty sister, Saphi, adds further complications to the tale. A Kirkus Reviews critic complained of the novel's "critical lack of purpose," but also praised how Brichoux "slowly, carefully delineates the full extent of Augustina's disappointment at her now-limited life."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, May 1, 2003, Meredith Parets, review of Coffee and Kung Fu, p. 1577.
Hollywood Reporter, June 9, 2003, Chris Barsanti, review of Coffee and Kung Fu, p. 26.
Kirkus Reviews, April 1, 2003, review of Coffee and Kung Fu, p. 490; August 1, 2006, review of Falling Into the World, p. 738.
Library Journal, May 1, 2003, Karen Core, review of Coffee and Kung Fu, p. 154.
Women's Review of Books, July, 2003, Margaret Weigel, review of Coffee and Kung Fu, p. 33.
All About Romance,http://www.likesbooks.com/ (June 19, 2004), Lynn Spencer, review of Separation Anxiety.
BookLoons,http://www.bookloons.com/ (April 9, 2007), Shannon Bigham, review of The Girl She Left Behind.
Curled Up with a Good Book,http://www.curledup.com/ (April 9, 2007), review of The Girl She Left Behind.
Karen Brichoux Home Page,http://www.karenbrichoux.com (April 9, 2007).
Romance Reader,http://www.theromancereader.com/ (June 19, 2004), Susan Scribner, review of Coffee and Kung Fu.