Friday, October 4, 2019

Review: Natalie Tan's Book of Luck & Fortune

Natalie Tan's Book of Luck & Fortune
Roselle Lim
Published June 11, 2019
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. - from Goodreads
Natalie returns to her hometown of San Francisco upon her mother's death, after seven years of being away.  When she finds out she has inherited her grandmother's former restaurant, she decides to stay and reopen the restaurant, and hopefully help the ailing neighborhood at the same time. If you're looking for a book filled with family, community, and culture, then this is the book for you!

Natalie Tan hasn't been to San Francisco since her mother refused to support her dream of becoming a chef.  She's been all over the world, but now has the opportunity to reopen her grandmother's restaurant, which used to be the center of the neighborhood.  But before she can do so, she has to help other shop owners in the area by cooking for them.  I liked the idea that Natalie has to become a part of the community and help others as she pursues her own dream.  She can see how much the neighborhood has changed, and she throws herself completely into helping it regain its former glory (even if the consequences aren't exactly as she intended).

Family is really at the heart of this novel.  Natalie and her mother were estranged, and even before that, Natalie didn't know much about her grandmother or her father.  I felt bad for her that her mother kept so many secrets and that she had to find out so much after she died.  However, I felt like we were able to get to know these family members along with Natalie as the story progressed.  Along with the idea of family is the theme of culture in the book.  The Chinatown setting really shines, and I felt like I learned a lot about Chinese customs through Natalie's journey.  And the food - OMG, don't read this on an empty stomach!  The descriptions of food and even the way it was prepared were mouth-watering.

There are some elements of magical realism that I wasn't expecting but which added immensely to the overall vibe of the book.  From the grayscale coloring of the neighborhood, to the bird imagery, to the way food literally lit people up, it was a really beautiful addition.  Along with this, Lim's writing is, for the most part, extremely elegant, and so the book just had this smooth, almost lyrical quality to it.

I only had a couple quibbles with the book.  Oddly, the dialogue was sometimes stilted, simplistic, and repetitive.  It was a bit jarring at times, but it didn't hinder my enjoyment too much.  In addition,  the romance felt underdeveloped and almost unnecessary. 

4 stars

22 comments:

  1. Probably not my kinda book, knowing myself but I'm glad you enjoyed it and the cover is very cute! ^_^

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    1. The cover was even better in person! It had this cool shimmer to it.

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  2. Me + magical realism have never mixed well and I tend to avoid it all costs. But I love the sound of the foodie elements in this one. I tend to enjoy stories that center around cooks and/or restaurants, So glad you enjoyed this one!

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    1. Thanks, Tanya! Yeah, magical realism isn't for every reader, but I liked how it was used here!

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  3. Mouth-watering descriptions of food yes please! I mean, it'll be infuriating and sad, but I can't resist ;)

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  4. I tried this book, and it's one I wanted to like so much, but as I was reading I just got so depressed with the beginning. Maybe I should give it another go. Reviews like yours always make me second guess myself lol

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    1. Haha, I know, that's the thing about DNFing, there's always the "what if"! I can see how the beginning was a little hard to get through, though.

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  5. I have been so excited about this book and I am glad that you mostly enjoyed it. The family theme sounds fantastic.

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    1. The family aspect really shone through, especially considering that Natalie is the only one still alive.

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  6. Though this book wasn't what I was expecting, I enjoyed it. It was about family, community, and connection, and I thought it was done well. I do wish there was more of the romance, though, because I really liked the love interest.

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    1. I know, the romance just felt off to me. Either have more or get rid of it altogether.

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  7. I hadn't been following the buzz for this book too closely so had no idea what it was about. It sounds really good and I like that the magical realism added to the story rather than distracting from it.

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    1. Yeah, it's always nice when the magical realism complements the story!

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  8. I really like the magical element to it - especially about it lighting the people up. It sounds interesting. The thought of not seeing her mother for so many years seems sad.

    Great review.

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    1. Thanks, Angie! There was some sadness in the family theme.

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  9. I liked this one too. I agree that the romance was underdeveloped. I adored all the cooking, it was mouth watering.

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  10. I'm so glad to see you enjoyed this one! I've had an ARC of this one sitting around and I keep meaning to check it out, but I just kept putting it to the side--I think I'll have to prioritize it a bit more.

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  11. I haven't read this one, but have seen all kind of thoughts about it around the blogging world. Glad you mostly enjoyed it, Angela. :)

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I'm so glad you stopped by, and I would love to hear your thoughts! Comments are always greatly appreciated!