While the plot is timeworn, the book is distinguished by the love Lim shows the neighborhood, the characters, and the food.

NATALIE TAN'S BOOK OF LUCK & FORTUNE

Loss, homecoming, romance, recipes, and magic mingle in this debut novel.

Natalie Tan knows her mother has died when a bird sings Ma-ma’s favorite aria on her balcony, a glint of magical realism that then takes a while to resurface. Natalie returns to San Francisco’s Chinatown to plan the funeral and grapple with her resentment toward the community she felt didn't help her when she was growing up with a mother who suffered from depression and agoraphobia. Ma-ma herself caused a seven-year rift with Natalie by opposing her wishes to become a chef. But the Chinatown to which Natalie returns is changed in many ways. Some for the worse: Business is down everywhere; the place is in disrepair. But some for the better: Natalie begins to bond with the neighbors who cared for Ma-ma in her absence. And she learns that her grandmother’s restaurant—shuttered after her untimely death—is now hers to run. A local friend and seer tells her she must cook for and help her neighbors before she can successfully open the restaurant; here the magical elements return. Serving dishes chosen from her grandmother’s recipe book for their promised effects, Natalie watches miracles unfold. In one instance, cracks form in the eaters’ faces and are filled with gold, patching up their relationship. Of course a perfect suitor arrives, drawn by the scent of dumplings. And of course all Natalie's progress must fall apart in order for her to find her inner strength and put it back together.

While the plot is timeworn, the book is distinguished by the love Lim shows the neighborhood, the characters, and the food.

Pub Date: June 11, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0325-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: March 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2019

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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