Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck & Fortune by Roselle Lim
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.
First review of the year, even though I read this last year (this is so weird to write), and breaking away from the usual puzzle background because Vixy was being a good model.
Natalie has been working on learning new foods and growing her repertoire of food and has been chasing her dream away from home as she didn’t see eye to eye with her mum. And as such she also didn’t see eye to eye with her neighbours.
However, after her mother dies, she returns and decides that maybe she’ll open the restaurant she inherited and fulfill her dream. And as she does this, she also starts seeing her neighbours differently, tries to help them and cooks lots of delicious food.
The main thing was that this book made me SO hungry! Do not read while hungry or with any hint of hunger because you’ll be craving the food so bad. I kept drooling over the recipes, loving the simple and interesting magic in the “dishes” and just that hint at a slight bend between magic and reality as we see it.
The writing flowed, I felt for Natalie and her neighbours and I just wanted them all to be happy and succeed. And to make food. So bad. It was interesting to see her mother’s agoraphobia define her childhood and then to slowly find out why it got so bad and why her mother was so against Natalie’s dreams.
Another thing that I found interesting is how sometimes we think we know what is best for someone else and what the fix is, but it isn’t always what is best and meddling has consequences. Natalie has a good heart even if it is a bit broken, patched and mended, and she has a fear of commitment so it was interesting to see her grow through the story and find that confidence in herself, and to learn more about her family history, her grandmother and the neighbourhood in general.
Worth the read, keep snacks available while reading. I ended up being lucky that I was reading at a Thai restaurant while waiting for my food, so my cravings were relatively quickly satisfied but at other times, it was tricky not to want to immediately get delicious food.