Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck & Fortune by Roselle Lim
Lush and visual, chock-full of delicious recipes, Roselle Lim’s magical debut novel is about food, heritage, and finding family in the most unexpected places.
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.
“Vivid and lyrical with a touch of magic.”–Helen Hoang, author of The Kiss Quotient
I read this before I left for vacation, but took notes. Hopefully this review will be ok. I’m one of those people who needs to review a book within a day of reading it to really remember everything.
This book is adult and not YA, but would probably appeal to most YA readers. There is no sex or anything that would be bad for a teen to read (I think sex in YA is ok if it’s not graphic). While this book had a bit of romance, the real focus was on family, community, and food.
Natalie wanted to go to culinary school, but her mom forbid it. Because of this, Natalie left home and they didn’t speak again. Natalie went to culinary school, but failed. So she decided to travel and learn how to cook things in the countries she went to. It was probably a better education than she could have received in a school. Years after leaving, Natalie receives a phone call that her mother passed away. She jumped on a plane and went home to San Francisco.
Natalie was shocked by how much had changed. There was very little left to Chinatown. New businesses and buildings were being built. Things were faded and there weren’t as many tourists. Natalie found that some of the long time businesses and residents were thinking about selling. After getting a letter from her mother giving her blessing, Natalie decided to open her grandma’s old restaurant. She found her grandmother’s old recipe book. After each recipe, there were notes about who to serve the dish to and what it would do for them. Natalie is told that she must help three people in the neighborhood before opening her restaurant.
At first, Natalie was angry at everyone. Her mother was agoraphobic and Natalie was left to take care of her while growing up. But after time, she realizes how much of the community stepped up when Natalie left. They all cared about her mom and she wasn’t alone. The neighborhood all starts trying to help Natalie. She also meets a man that comes to her closed door because he could smell her cooking. Natalie is instantly attracted to him, but she also doesn’t believe in love. Her father left, so she left relationships before the men could leave her.
There are a lot of recipes throughout the book which I thought was a great addition to the story. There are a lot of bumps along the way, but Natalie not only starts to understand her mom more, but also herself.
I gave this book 4 stars. Thank you to the publisher and Edelweiss for my copy for review.
Have you read this book yet? Is it on your TBR?