Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck & Fortune
2019, 299 pages
Living in Montreal’s Chinatown, Natalie Tan hears a bird singing her mother’s song outside her window and knows that her mother has passed away. “Ma-ma was gone.” Natalie returns to San Francisco to settle her mother’s affairs. Natalie left years ago to pursue her career as a chef. She and her mother had quarreled about Natalie’s choice and they hadn’t spoken in years. Now Natalie regrets not speaking or visiting sooner.
When Natalie returns she finds that the once-thriving neighborhood is rundown. A lot of businesses are selling and closing up. Natalie’s grandmother had been an outstanding cook and once had a famous restaurant in Chinatown. Growing up, Natalie and her mother lived in an apartment above the old restaurant. Natalie never knew her grandmother, but she finds a book of her recipes. Natalie discovers that she has inherited her grandmother’s restaurant and is determined to open it back up and help restore the neighborhood. The food that Natalie cooks casts spells on the people who eat it. But although the food is delicious, not all of the spells have the effect that Natalie wanted. This tale is full of interesting characters like Celia, Old Wu, Miss Yu and the erhu musician. Magic, music and food are themes that run through this book, and San Francisco’s Chinatown neighborhood is vibrantly brought to life. It reminded me a little of the book Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel.
This lyrical tale has a little magic, a little romance and delicious Chinese food – and recipes. It has a main character that you can root for, and she can cook like nobody’s business – except perhaps her own?
Robbin BaileyConcord Public Library
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