If you’re looking for an instantly consuming read that will also make you want to consume lots of new things, pick up a copy of Roselle Lim’s debut novel, Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck & Fortune (Berkley). Roselle Lim’s tale is shaped by growing up as a sous chef to her father, carrying his love of cooking into her own life. Using culinary imagery and sprinkling the novel with recipes on scrumptious and authentic dishes, Roselle places a passion for cooking in her protagonist Natalie that is genuine and infectious.
Natalie Tan wants to be a great chef like her grandmother Laolao, but she doesn’t see eye to eye with her Ma-ma on the subject. Ma-ma is agoraphobic, bound to her home in Chinatown and dependent on her daughter. Knowing that professional culinary training would take Natalie far away from her, Ma-ma tries to dissuade Natalie from following her career dreams. The ongoing argument causes a rift in their relationship and the two-part in anger. Seven years of silence follow as Ma-ma stays put in with the help of a friend Celia and Natalie tries to follow her passion for cooking.
The silence between the two is shattered with a phone call from Celia–Ma-ma has passed away. Returning to the place of her childhood, Natalie is surprised to find that the vibrant community she remembers is struggling to keep up. Upon reading a moving letter of apology from her mother, Natalie decides to reinvigorate the neighborhood and her own ambitions as a cook by re-opening her Laolao’s restaurant. Unfortunately, though re-opening a restaurant is a difficult enough task on its own, Natalie must complete an additional challenge. When the neighborhood seer divines that Natalie must cook three recipes from her grandmother’s cookbook to assist her struggling neighbors before the restaurant can succeed, Natalie feels uninspired to act.
Natalie resents her neighbors for not helping more when she was in the house shouldering most of the duties Ma-ma could not accomplish. But, in the process of fulfilling her mission to revive Laolao’s restaurant, she comes to have a new appreciation for them. What follows is an intimate tale of forgiveness, discovery and growth. Finding new truths in her mother and grandmother’s lives through neighbors allows Natalie to view her own decisions and previous judgments in a new light.
In this journey of discovery and transformation, the author Roselle balances the bitterness of losing a loved one with the sweet development of new relationships, and the quirky elements of magical realism in Natalie’s cooking. As classically illustrated in Like Water for Chocolate, there’s just something about the combination of cooking and magical realism that mixes beautifully in a story. Natalie’s food has the power to instill particular feelings in those that try it. For example, Natalie’s Arroz Caldo serves as comfort food, but more than simply satisfying Celia’s hunger, it conjures cherished memories. Natalie’s dish reminds her of “snuggling under afghans with my mother,” ushering nostalgia and pure happiness in just a spoonful of porridge. In addition to playing with the fun conventions of magical realism in food, a delectable new romance unfurls in the background of the story as Natalie opens her mind and heart up to her community.
A story you’ll want to savor, Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck & Fortune is available for purchase now.
ABOUT ROSELLE LIM:
Roselle Lim was born in the Philippines and immigrated to Canada as a child. She lived in north Scarborough in a diverse, Asian neighborhood.
She found her love of writing by listening to her Lola (paternal grandmother’s) stories about Filipino folktales. Growing up in a household where Chinese superstition mingled with Filipino Catholicism, she devoured books about mythology, which shaped the fantasies in her novels.
An artist by nature, she considers writing as “painting with words.” Visit her site at https://www.rosellelim.com/.