Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and 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.
Book Review by Tanya Kaanta
Natalie Tan’s Book of Love and Fortune by Roselle Lim
If you’re looking for a summer beach read, I highly recommend Natalie Tan’s Book of Love and Fortune. It’s got a little bit of everything. Second chances, a love story, working through family dysfunction, food and recipes, social commentary, and a little bit of mysticism.
Natalie Tan returns to her hometown in Chinatown after her mother’s unexpected death. She’s always wanted to be a chef but life had other plans for her. Plans that involved her running far from her home and her mother.
Yet she returns as the dutiful daughter and decides she will finally open up the restaurant her grandmother started. Finding the book of recipes her grandmother created, she tries to assuage with food the conflict brewing among her mother’s friends and neighbors. Each recipe acting as a recipe to help support the issue or pain point of her neighbors and friends. All in all, she knows deep down her grandmother’s recipes will heal the community.
However, as good of intention as she hopes, the following result is not always what she wishes it would be. Sometimes, the effect of the food makes her feel as if she made things worse. Until she realizes it’s not necessarily what’s in a book, but what’s inside her.
Natalie Tan’s Book of Love and Fortune is a book of exploration and what it means to be family. Of what it means to support friends. Taking risks in love and life and having the courage to succeed. Often times, it’s finding what is buried within us and allowing that light to shine. And our Natalie eventually does that, with some help along the way.
Bonus, Roselle Lim provides full recipes throughout the book, and I for one am eager to try. Finally, we receive a glimpse of what life is like in a traditional and multi-generational Chinese community.
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