This is a book that demands to be savored. And savor, I did.
It’s beautiful and a little heartbreaking and absolutely a masterpiece. Sentimental, but subtle in its execution, Natalie Tan’s Book of Love and Fortune is something truly extraordinary with how Natalie explores grief, intergenerational family, and culture, all wrapped up with subtle hints of magic and poetry–and delicious recipes too.
I really wanted to read this in a couple days, but ultimately it took me around a week to read because I really absorbed Natalie’s story in. I think Roselle Lim did such an amazing job in crafting this story and Natalie’s journey.
The grief themes were really strong, and Lim gives them the time they deserve in the story.
Natalie’s not just grieving the death of her agoraphobic, depressed, and estranged (for 7 years) mother, but she’s also grieving, in a way, her grandmother and not getting to know her. I loved how Lim toyed around with intergenerational family themes—especially given the Chinese community and typical beliefs about family, filial responsibility, etc.—and really gave this element the weight and time it deserved within the narrative.
It’s quiet, but nuanced and a little sad and overall a really great story on grief. I’d say this is one of the primary elements of the story, and Natalie getting the closure she needs on her whole family was really meaningful.
Lim really worked on the themes of filial responsibility—especially given the pressure of the Chinese community around her—and I really enjoyed and related to how she wrote this and the guilt Natalie had about leaving her mother for seven years.
I also especially appreciated the community elements.
Community is really important to many diaspora immigrants, and although I’m in Florida and not an area with a high Asian immigrant population, I still 100% understood what Lim was conveying.
The entire idea of community was so strong and really influential in the story, and I loved that. Not just in the part they played in taking care of Natalie’s mom while she was away, but also in how Natalie goes about establishing her restaurant.
It was really important to her to understand the San Francisco Chinatown community which she had grown up in and make sure she took care of her neighbors, and although Natalie went through struggles along the way, I think Lim shaped this part of the story really well too.
The themes on community and mentorship and working together and understanding your neighbors and respecting your elders and ancestors who came before you were all very strong, and the way this story ended was really satisfying for me.
I think Natalie’s cooking & desire to reestablish her grandmother’s restaurant was the perfect backdrop for this story and its themes (and the tiny romance storyline too!), and I absolutely adore the way Lim used this to highlight the cultural elements.
Overall, I loved this.
Natalie Tan’s Book of Love and Fortune was, for me, a reflection of my culture and my family and the ideals I was taught growing up. I loved it, and it was extraordinary to see that reflected back at me.
Although Natalie Tan’s Book of Love and Fortune is adult fiction, one of the closest comparison titles I can think about is Emily X.R. Pan’s The Astonishing Color of After and how it also incorporates culture, a little bit of magic, and grief all together into another heartrending novel. Both are beautiful and sentimental and gorgeous, and if you liked the YA novel and wanted something similar, definitely try some adult fiction in Natalie Tan’s Book of Love and Fortune.
It was a beautiful read for me, and I’m so grateful that this book is out in the world.
Natalie Tan’s mother has died. After being estranged for 7 years after Natalie left home to pursue her dreams of learning to cook—and similarly abandoning her agoraphobic mother—she returns to San Francisco’s Chinatown.
Upon inheriting her grandmother’s restaurant, Natalie makes a decision. She wants to reopen the restaurant, especially seeing how her community of San Francisco Chinatown is slowly disappearing as the area gentrifies. In order to have success, Natalie must cook three recipes from her grandmother’s book to help her neighbors, but the task will prove more difficult and enlightening than she imagined.
Thank you so much to Roselle Lim for sending me an advance reader’s copy in exchange for an honest review!