After her mother’s death, Natalie Tan returns home to San Francisco’s Chinatown for the first time in seven years. Her neighborhood, however, is very different than it was when she left it to travel the world after her agoraphobic mother would not support her dream of becoming a chef. Gentrification is creeping in, and more of the shop owners are closing and selling to tech startups. When Natalie discovers she has inherited her grandmother’s restaurant, and magical recipe book, she sees a chance to help her neighborhood by reopening the restaurant. Before her restaurant can succeed, however, a seer instructs her that she must cook three of her grandmother’s recipes to help her neighbors.
The best books are the ones that can transport you to a different time or place. After reading Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune I feel like I have visited San Francisco’s Chinatown. Lim makes Natalie’s neighborhood come alive with the rich history, current struggles, and culture of Chinatown and the members of the community. I felt invested in each of Natalie’s neighbors that she was trying to help. The real highlight of course is the food. The descriptions of the food Natalie cooks using her grandmother’s recipes are positively mouthwatering. You can almost hear the sizzle of the wok and smell the aromatic blends of spices, meats and vegetables cooking. Can you tell that this book made me hungry while reading it? Lim also seamlessly incorporates elements of magical realism into the story. Each recipe that Natalie creates has magical properties and emotions can create physical scars. As Natalie cooks and works to reopen the restaurant she comes to terms with her own family’s history, her complicated relationship with her community and finds her own path.
A lyrical story of food, family, and community with a touch of magic. Readers who like family sagas, magical realism and food are sure to enjoy this book. Be prepared to be craving dumplings by the time you finish “Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune.”
9/19 Caitlin Brisson
NATALIE TAN’S BOOK OF LUCK AND FORTUNE by Roselle Lim. Berkley Books (June 11, 2019). ISBN 9781984803252. 320p.