Number One Chinese Restaurant by Lillian Li is a well written novel about a group of people connected by a Chinese restaurant and how they’re all affected in the aftermath of a tragedy that befell it. From Johnny, the unlikable owner/manager of the restaurant, to Nan and Ah-Jack, who have worked at the restaurant the longest, to Nan’s son, who is entwined with the tragedy, the narrative alternates between various shifting viewpoints, giving you a story of very real humans and how they affect each other’s lives in ways known and unknown.
What I enjoyed about this book was getting all of the different viewpoints, and how authentic each one seemed to be. Not all of the characters were likable, but most were understandable, and some were very surprising once you actually got to see things their way. While you know the basics of the tragedy from the get go, the narrative still managed to unfold in ways that surprised me and made me want to keep reading. From Nan and Ah-Jack’s unfolding romance (not a spoiler–I swear it’s in the blurb) to Johnny’s attempts to move on with his life, I rooted for some characters and applauded the downfall of others. I felt like the various characters were very real and the book itself felt realistic.
At times, the book dragged a little bit for me, and there are some characters I would’ve preferred to hear less from, and others I would’ve liked to hear more from. It was very easy to shift my loyalties throughout, but at a certain point, the book did speed up and I became very curious to see what happened to everyone. If you’re looking for a good fiction read with some darkness and tragedy in it, as well as really well-drawn characters, then be sure to give this one a try.
Note: I received a copy of this book from Netgalley & the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.
What’s your favorite adult fiction you’ve read recently (bonus points for diverse recs!)?? Let me know in the comments!