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
I’ve seen so many people talk about how good this book is and how the food descriptions were incredible. It sounded sweet, with complicated relationships and feelings. I wanted to give it a shot. Trigger warnings: grief
I love this feeling this book evokes. It’s full of family, community, good food, love, forgiveness, pride, hard work, and chasing your dreams. The essence of this book bleeds across the pages and the underlying feelings and messages were so easy to feel. The main story and a lot of the messages aren’t technically feel good, but what it made me feel made me smile.
I’m a really picky eater. I don’t like a lot of foods and I wasn’t expecting to be swayed by the food descriptions. But, I really liked them! It’s done in a way where they are long and detailed, but it doesn’t seem tedious and it doesn’t take away from whatever is happening. They were able to make dishes I wouldn’t normally try, sound really good.
This book has a lot of magical realism elements to it. I wasn’t expecting it, so it took a little getting used to. Once I did, I thought they were really sweet. They really added to the book. It was little things, but they represented something bigger and the imagery was really well done.
The journey that Natalie went on was really interesting to read. She wants to follow her dreams, she wants to open a restaurant, but she’s held back by fear and the things she doesn’t know about her family and her community. I liked watching her build relationships and face things head on. I liked how she grew to be apart of something. She grew to love what she was doing and it was really awesome to see.
Natalie does have an emotional development, but I didn’t quite connect with it very fully. It was sort of brushed to the side for other plot points to move forward, but I didn’t mind too much. I would have liked her emotional struggles to be highlighted more, but I don’t think that was the point of the book. Because of that, the things that weren’t as fleshed out as they could have been, don’t seem like a huge deal.
There was a romantic relationship, but it was a very small part. I personally think the book would have worked just as well without it, though it does tie into some of Natalie’s family backstory and I liked seeing those parallels.
There were a lot of side characters too. Some of them felt very fleshed out and some of them didn’t. Though, I did really like them all.
This book also moves very fast. It sort of tugs you along and I felt like I would have liked for it to take longer at certain points. But, I think the book is supposed to be sweet and have good food and have an emphasis on family and love and move fast. And it does it really well.
There was also a cat in this book! I loved Meimei haha. She was very prevalent throughout the book, which I thought was awesome.
I enjoyed this book. I enjoyed the food, the cuteness, and the sweetness. The story was really solid and the writing was super awesome! I really liked it.
Thank you for reading!