Skip to main content

Crazy Bao You


Crazy Bao You

by Lyn Liao Butler, writing as Lyn Liao

CRAZY BAO YOU is a rom-com for our times. An attraction begins on Instagram. Who would have thought that an introverted Etsy seller in Oklahoma might fall in love with a handsome firefighter in New York City? Diverging a bit from her clever mysteries, Lyn Liao (Butler) has written a book that could almost appear to be based on her own life. She was born in Taiwan and moved to the States when she was seven. She is married to a FDNY firefighter. She also fosters dogs in need of rescue. Are you hooked yet?

The novel opens when Kimmie Park, who works at a boutique in a small Oklahoma town, finally gets the nerve to tell Rip, the irascible owner, what she thinks about his treatment of the store's employees. For some strange reason, Kimmie begins dancing and twerking while flying around the store detailing all the ways they have been abused. She has no idea that a coworker is filming the whole thing. And while Kimmie is no dancer, she looks graceful and powerful as she scolds Rip for his behavior. She is appalled when that video, posted on Instagram so that close friends can see it, goes viral instead. Luckily, her name is not mentioned. But the store is called Let Her Rip, and that becomes the hashtag for the video.

"Enjoy the romance. Laugh at the mix-ups. Savor vicariously the descriptions of food. And maybe even shop at a purse store on Etsy. Think about Kimmie and Matt as you do that."

Kimmie is an introverted person who sells purses and totes that she makes on Etsy. Her store, My Crafty Bao, is gaining a following, and she is kept busy filling orders. Her Aunt Hana, a writer, flies to Oklahoma from London, and her good friend Alicia comes back from New York City to help her through the emotional turmoil from the double whammy of the viral video and losing her job.

Kimmie lives in the house in which she grew up. Her adoptive parents, a Korean couple, never told her she was adopted, so as a child she thought she was Korean. But as an adult, after believing she was Chinese, she has now heard from her birth mother and realizes that she is Taiwanese. She isn’t sure whether or not she should connect with her.

Kimmie's dream had always been to attend the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York City. But since the death of her adoptive parents on a vacation, she is afraid to leave her home. She will go shopping and be out and about. But she has no desire to travel, and attending school in NYC is out of the question.

The book is divided into three parts. There is Kimmie's narrative, as well as Matt's. He's the firefighter who finds Kimmie on Instagram when he buys a tote from her for his grandmother's birthday. Both narratives are in first person, but it's Kimmie's voice that really grabs us. The third part consists of Kimmie's Instagram posts, which always end with these words: "Be daring, be bold, be you." She shares her story in some of these posts and has Alicia model the merchandise. When everyone assumes that Alicia is Kimmie, she doesn't correct them.

Alicia is model-thin, beautifully made up, and graceful. Kimmie loves to eat, has wild black hair, and most importantly, doesn't want anyone to connect her Etsy store with the crazy woman from the viral video. This is what leads to the "com" part of this clever rom-com.

What Liao does wonderfully in all of her novels is to create main characters who are flawed in ways with which we can empathize. There's something comforting about seeing that people who might seem put together on social media could be quite different in real life. Both Kimmie and Matt have lost parents, and while Matt's father is still around, they do not have a close relationship. For much of the story, Matt thinks that Kimmie looks like Alicia. When Kimmie tries to tell him she is not Alicia, he assures her that he enjoys her conversation for who she is, not what she looks like. But because of a comedy of errors, he doesn't truly understand what she is attempting to explain. And we see how their communication, through Instagram and phone calls, does result in their falling in love before they've ever actually seen each other.

Far-fetched? Perhaps. But in Liao's capable hands, it works. This is a lovely story with a happy ending. Liao has her own Etsy store where she sells purses. An in-joke occurs when Kimmie exercises with "Lyn" on a YouTube channel; Liao shares a 30-minute exercise video on Instagram with her followers on Saturdays. She also loves to cook the food that her parents made for her when she was growing up, so Kimmie's excitement and joy in finding the food of her heritage is something that Liao feels very passionate about.

Enjoy the romance. Laugh at the mix-ups. Savor vicariously the descriptions of food. And maybe even shop at a purse store on Etsy. Think about Kimmie and Matt as you do that.

Reviewed by Pamela Kramer on July 15, 2023

Crazy Bao You
by Lyn Liao Butler, writing as Lyn Liao

  • Publication Date: June 6, 2023
  • Genres: Comedy, Fiction, Humor, Romance
  • Paperback: 346 pages
  • Publisher: LLB
  • ISBN-13: 9798987686003