This book was not at all what I was expecting. It’s a magical and hopeful story but also very sad in certain places too. I connected to Natalie and her story in so many ways. Natalie failed out of culinary school and I quit culinary school. Her connection to her family’s food is also very similar to the way I feel about Jewish food. And don’t get me started on her relationship with her mother. This book helped me look at what life might look like after I lose my mom. It’s something I’ve not wanted to face, but also something I know I need to think about so I am not shocked into a mental breakdown. Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune helped me deal with those feelings a little bit. Alright, before we all start sobbing, let’s get to the review.
Synopsis (from Goodreads):
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.
Natalie Tan is returning to the place she grew up. She hasn’t been back in years, but now she must. Her mother is dead and she has to pick up the pieces of their strained relationship. As Natalie goes through her mother’s things, looks into the restaurant connected to their home that her grandmother used to work in, and talks to the people in her neighborhood, she decides to do exactly what her grandmother did. Fix people’s problems with amazing food. And with the help of her grandmother’s recipe book, how could she go wrong?
What she doesn’t expect is for the recipes to backfire disastrously. Couples are on the verge of breaking up, she is very close to losing the closest friend she has, and others are thinking of selling their businesses. And to top it all off, the restaurant catches on fire and is almost destroyed. Shit gets real and Natalie hits bottom.
But once you hit bottom, there is only one way to go. (I’ve been there. I know lol). After losing the man she was beginning to have strong feelings for, Natalie decides to fight through her problems instead of running from them. And the results are delicious. She comes up with her own recipes and decides that she can’t be responsible for fixing everyone’s problems. All she can do is cook, be active in her neighborhood, and take the good and the bad as it comes.
Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune is such a magical book. There is a magical realism element that really surprised me. I wasn’t expecting it and I had to reread to make sure I was understanding correctly (no spoilers!). And of course, I loved the addition of the recipes. They are sprinkled throughout the book and really brought me fully into the world of this story.
My one critique is about the romance. It felt like it happened too quickly and I didn’t feel the chemistry between Natalie and Daniel. They just didn’t click. I was happy they dealt with their issues by the end of the book, but, for me, it was the least interesting relationship.
That being said, I was so focused on Natalie’s relationship with her mom, I might’ve not been picking up on their connection as much as I normally would.
I am giving Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune 3.5 out of 5 stars. The mother-daughter relationship (despite the mother being gone), the food, the magic, and the coming together of community makes this such a beautiful book. If you’ve been on the fence about reading it, DO IT! It’s worth the tears (or maybe I just cry at every book lol).
Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune by Roselle Lim comes out June 11, 2019.
Thank you to First to Read and Berkley Books for the free ecopy in exchange for my honest review.