Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune by Roselle Lim
Publication Date: June 11th, 2019
*Reading this back, I’ve realized this review is slightly spoiler-y. (Maybe? I’m still not totally clear on what exactly consists of a spoiler in the grand scheme of things.) So, if you’re a purist, continue with caution.*
So, let me start off with the fact that I thought this book was a Contemporary Romance for about 75%. (I honestly couldn’t tell you why. Maybe because I thought Berkley only published Romance? [Yeah, that would be their sub-set Berkley Romance Publishing. I’m dumb.] Or maybe it’s because the cover’s style is similar to the new trend amongst NA Romance covers?) Anyways, once I looked up the genre, everything made a lot more sense. And just to set the record straight, the genre is Magical-Realism. You should know that going in. Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortunes follows Natalie as she comes to terms with her mother’s death and heads back to San Francisco to clean out her adolescent home. As soon as she returns, she notices the drastic change in their little corner of Chinatown. The neighborhood is dying, and with the guidance of the local seer, she sets out on a quest to save it. This book takes you on a flavorful journey filled with mishaps and mistakes as Natalie figures out her past, future, and present.
What I Liked:
- The setting of this book is one of my favorite things. It’s mostly set in San Francisco’s Chinatown, a traditionally vibrant, colorful, and diverse place. So, to see it as a grimmer, dimmer, desperate area is truly startling. Also, as a city residency it has a uniquely, different experience to that of the suburbs (which is all I’ve known). By that I mean it was cool to see how truly entwined your lives can be with your neighbors.
- Speaking of neighbors, they were my favorite part of this book! (Well, maybe after the food…) The cast of characters in this book is magically wacky. There are gossips, grumps, fast friends, old memories, new nemeses, missed kisses, and so much more. As Natalie repairs bridges she thought long gone, each of her neighbors gains new depth.
- Okay, so the food in this book made me so hungry that I got Chinese food twice in the 3-day span I was reading it. And you know the scene in Ratatouille where Remy is explaining flavor combinations to his brother? That’s basically how I felt during this entire book. I legitimately drooled over the food passages. It was that bad…well, good actually?
What I Didn’t Like:
- So, while the recipes for all the dishes were included in the book, they lack measurements, citing that “a natural cook would know how much to use and of what.” Which is unfortunate because I, not a natural cook, was looking forward to trying out the recipes when I heard they were included. (And I don’t mean for the magical remedies.)
- A lot of my feelings about this book are conflicting, because I was confused on the genre for so long. I remember realizing that I was happy that it wasn’t a romance because I literally did not care about the MC’s relationship. I feel like the couple was pretty insta-lovey, but got hardly any page time, so it didn’t really make sense? I would have been okay with the whole romance subplot being dropped, or even just the book being an extra 30 pages just to flush out their courtship a little more.
Overall, I think if I went into this with proper expectations, I would have enjoyed it properly. I absolutely loved Roselle Lim’s writing and exceptional world-building, filled with all her incredibly unique and vibrant characters (AND FOOD). Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortunes is the perfect for the foody fiction reader. I know I’ll definitely come back to this book in the future.
*Thank you to Tree for valiantly lending me her ARC of Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune.*