BOOK REVIEW: Natalie Tan's Book of Luck and Fortune by Roselle Lim


Publication Date: June 11, 2019
Format: Paperback
Genre:  Magical Realism/Asian American Lit

Publisher: Berkley                
315 pages
Buy: Paperback | Kindle 


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.


Grab a napkin and have your chopsticks ready because the descriptions of food are drool worthy and so magical you can almost smell the dumplings and feel that you can grab one from the pages.  Much magical realism abounds this book about generations, tradition and things that hold us back.  I love how Lim reminded us how food can bring us together, it weaves through our past and our present and creates connections, especially when using recipes that are handed down over time.  

As gentrification threatens a part of San Francisco's famous Chinatown Natalie returns home to find that she has inherited her grandmothers restaurant. Determined to fulfill her dream she tries to find a way to open a successful restaurant and keep their part of Chinatown alive and thriving.  Of course lessons are learned and clinging to the past is never the way to go.  However Lim shows how revitalization can take place without changing the feel of a place.  Instead of gentrification, revitalization of an area can hold the culture and the feel of an area bringing life back without alienating the people who have been there for generations. 

This is a sweet story of tradition, letting go, moving forward and living in the present.  Beautifully told with delicious recipes only a page away. 

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