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.
Lim serves up love, loss, heritage, and hints of the supernatural on a silver platter in this magical and mouthwatering debut. Seven years after aspiring chef Natalie Tan's relationship with her agoraphobic mother ends in a blazing fight, Natalie's mother dies, and Natalie returns to the apartment they shared in San Francisco's Chinatown to plan her mother's funeral. She finds the lively neighborhood where she grew up on the verge of economic collapse and her childhood home full of secrets. Among them is the boarded-up ground-level space they lived above Natalie's grandmother's famed Chinese restaurant, now her inheritance. Everyone who looks at Natalie sees her mother and grandmother, often before they see Natalie for herself, and she feels haunted by her ancestors' successes as much as by her own failures. When a mystic predicts Natalie's attempts to revive the eatery will succeed only if she uses her grandmother's recipes, Natalie undertakes the mammoth task of resurrecting both her lost culinary dreams and her family legacy, and the neighborhood she abandoned soon feels like the one place she's meant to be. This eminently filmable tale of finding one's own path while honoring one's history is delicious and spellbinding.