Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune has been on my list for a while now. But I am so happy I was able to snag an early copy of this book because, wow! It’s an absolutely lyrical story about grief, healing, and the magic of food.
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.
(Disclaimer: I received this book from Netgalley. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)
Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune is a lyrical sweeping masterpiece. Its descriptions of food will make your mouth water. Its portrayal of grief and the power of community will enchant your soul. And its portrayal of perseverance, forgiveness, grief will lift your heart. Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune is an enchanting debut which will leave you breathless.
There is magic in these pages. Whether it be the magic in Natalie’s food, or the effects of watching Natalie’s character growth, Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune will enchant you. It is a story of grief, a community falling apart, and lacking the power of food as connection. But it’s also a story about mending these cracks, honoring our ghosts, and repairing the damage.
Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune is bursting with gorgeous prose – sentences that are so elegant you want to reach into the book and hold their quivering hearts. It’s a book that will remind you of the power of words. Their ability to reach into your heart and stop it in its tracks.
At the beginning of Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune is a breadth of silence and angry whispers, unspoken apologies, and a gulf of regret. Returning to her mother’s home after her death, Natalie’s portrayal of grief is raw and heart wrenching. And through this tumultuous period of emotions, Natalie turns to her lifelong dream of food – to the food that comforts you when nothing else can, that reminds you of happier memories, and brings warmth to your finger tips.
At the same time, Natalie is a tender character and her story in Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune is an emotional one. Believing deeply that her flaws will scare people away into leaving her, Natalie feels both this universal longing for connection all while being terrified that to lose love, once it’s had, will unbind her. But we have to realize that to live in the shadow of love, in the fear of its destruction, only leaves us lacking the ability to embrace the heart of connection.
The food descriptions will not only cause you to yearn to step into Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune, but they’re so much more. They’re a language of communication, healing, love, and respect. It’s about the scents, the ways food transports us into the past, sparking magic in our hearts. While there is plenty of magic within these descriptions of food, it’s not only about what goes into food, but what we can take away.
For anyone who’s ever had a fight with a loved one, spoken unspeakable things, Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune is a love letter to that feeling – of guilt, remorse, regret – through the power for transformation, forgiveness, and honoring that love. At the same time it’s a love letter to a generational family of women who struggle with leaving their home behind, their own grief and mental health, and love. There is a magic that permeates the pages, that runs into the story, and which will stay with you long after you finish this gorgeous book.