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.
Don’t be fooled by the cover of this exceptionally stunning debut novel by Roselle Lim, people. Though it has such a beautiful cover that would promise a swoon-worthy romance, Natalie Tan’s story offers so much more than that because it’s a multi-layered story that packs an emotional punch and it was everything I hoped for in a Chinese romantic comedy. First of all, I’d like to thank Roselle Lim for writing such a beautiful story that’s rife with emotions and delicious food descriptions that I truly felt seen in.
Dreams, even modest ones, had a steep price. Mine had cost me my mother and given me the silence of seven years.
Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck & Fortune is reminiscent of a classic favourite of mine: The Joy Luck Club, a story that I hold it so close to my heart because it was introduced to me by my mother was a wee little bean. Well, I was around 7 when I first saw the movie on HBO but I did end up reading my mum’s copy when I was older. Similar to Amy Tan’s riveting generational story of Chinese women, Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck & Fortune is a story that is unforgettable for its lush metaphors and evocative use of imagery, thus easily making it a favourite of mine.
Roselle Lim’s debut novel made me feel things. It made me feel proud of being Chinese. It made me happy to see my cultural beliefs in a book that I could hold in my hands and savour every word. It made me hope that one day I, too, would be able to write my story with my own voice.
Growing up, Natalie has always had a burning passion for food and a dream of becoming a chef. However, her dreams were dashed when her agoraphobic mother refused to support her decision to be a chef like her Laolao (her maternal grandmother). The book opens 7 years after Natalie’s departure from home and she returns to her home in San Francisco’s Chinatown after the mysterious death of her mother, only to discover that she has inherited her Laolao’s restaurant. In order to continue her grandmother’s legacy and to ensure the restaurant returns to its glory days, Natalie must cook three recipes from her grandmother’s cookbook to help her neighbours who are in need of a bit of magic in their lives.
I had chosen my ego over my own mother. We Chinese wore our guilt like jade: pressed against our skin, displayed with pride, and always inherited.
BEWARE. Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck & Fortune is a book that is filled with descriptions of mouthwatering dishes and recipes and you will be salivating at the thought of everything Natalie cooks. There wasn’t a moment when I wasn’t hungry when I was reading this and it made me miss my mum’s home-cooked meals. I adored how Roselle Lim wrote about our Chinese beliefs and traditions with such flair and hearth, from the smallest things that carry symbols in our culture to the nuances of our upbringing.
If this was love, let me disintegrate into a thousand beams of light in the night sky.
As for the romance aspect of the book, I would highlight that there wasn’t any steamy scenes in the book, which was quite unexpected to begin with, since it is published by a romance imprint. But fret not, the budding romance between Natalie and her love interest is one that might seem brief as the focus of the story isn’t on the romance, but it did leave me feeling warm and giddy with excitement.
Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck & Fortune is a delicious and heady blend of everything I expected to find in a story that explores my culture and traditions where I found myself seen in the pages. With a bit of magic and a generous dollop of delectable Chinese food, this book is a clear winner in my books as it’s definitely something that will have a place in my heart.
Quotes were taken from the finished copy of Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck & Fortune.