Author: Roselle Lim
Published: June 6, 2019
Publisher: Berkley Publishing
Where I picked up my book: Publisher (#partner) THANK YOU!
Key Words: food lover, community, family dynamics, magical realism, heritage
My Rating: 3.5
I enjoyed Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune and after I sat with it for a bit, I enjoyed it even more. I originally went into this book wanting to read an easy, fluffier read, but this one had some depth that left me pleasantly surprised-so keep that in mind when you pick it up!
First, the writing is lyrical and lovely. Lim’s words and descriptions are full of detail and metaphors and create an atmosphere that I could literally feel myself taking part in. I could smell the smells, hear the words, touch the walls of the restaurant and walk the streets, all from the couch in my living room. Lim has a talent that she describes as, “painting with words” and that is literally how her writing feels. It’s beautiful.
Second, there is magical realism involved in the plot and I’m always here for that! I’m not sure what it is, but somehow, Lim made me feel like this is the reason to read fiction. Fiction doesn’t always have to make perfect sense-that’s the luxury of writing magical realism…and when it’s there in a book, it can add something beautiful to a story. That’s how I felt when while reading.
Third, family and friend dynamics are front and center. Sometimes reading about perfect families that love each other and are there for each other can be tough for me because of personal reasons, but this story was relatable, truthful and felt uniquely honest to some of what I deal with in my own family. It was a breath of fresh air. And the friend and community aspect-that was golden and almost made me cry happy tears. There is nothing that I value more than friends and community, so reading about these dynamics in this story was fantastic and right up my alley.
Fourth, Chinatown in San Francisco is almost like a character in this book and I couldn’t have loved that more. I used to live in San Francisco and a friend and I used to take the bus to Chinatown sometimes after work. We would buy dumplings from a window and look for cool pens in a stationery store. We’d walk by shops just to smell the smells, talk to friends that lived there as their aunt yelled for them out of a window above us to grab the mail, and I’d watch little kids play on the stoop next door. We’d go to the grocery store where you can buy authentic Asian ingredients and even though I knew nothing about most of them, I touched each one as if I was going home to make the most delicious meal I’ve ever made. It’s a beautifully unique place and always made me feel like I had left the hustle of the city when we went there. I felt that feeling again while reading this book and it made me the happiest.
Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune made me think long and hard about family, where we come from, mental illness, small business and what it means to support small and local shops, how important neighborhood and community can be, and how gentrification affects all aspects of a city. This isn’t necessarily a deep look at any of these themes, but if you let your mind go and do some work, I think you’ll close this book and still think about it days later. I know I have been. Oh, and also…this book is for all of my fellow food lovers out there too. I found myself feeling hungry through the majority of it. Good thing recipes are involved 🙂 Than you @berkleypub for the copy! #partner
P.S. THAT COVER!!
Summary (via Goodreads):
At the news of her mother’s death, Natalie Tan returns home. The two women hadn’t spoken since Natalie left in anger seven years ago, when her mother refused to support her chosen career as a chef. Natalie is shocked to discover the vibrant neighborhood of San Francisco’s Chinatown that she remembers from her childhood is fading, with businesses failing and families moving out. She’s even more surprised to learn she has inherited her grandmother’s restaurant.
The neighborhood seer reads the restaurant’s fortune in the leaves: Natalie must cook three recipes from her grandmother’s cookbook to aid her struggling neighbors before the restaurant will succeed. Unfortunately, Natalie has no desire to help them try to turn things around–she resents the local shopkeepers for leaving her alone to take care of her agoraphobic mother when she was growing up. But with the support of a surprising new friend and a budding romance, Natalie starts to realize that maybe her neighbors really have been there for her all along.