Book review: Number One Chinese Restaurant

11 Sep 2019 / 12:01 H.

LILLIAN Li’s debut novel is inspired by what she observed during the short time she worked in a Chinese restaurant.

The story focuses on the owners and workers of the Beijing Duck House, a famous eatery in Maryland renowned for its sumptuous menu and signature roast duck.

Running the restaurant after the death of his father is Jimmy Han, who desperately wants to carve his own niche in the restaurant world.

In order to do so, he needs to get rid of the family restaurant, get rid of Mr Pang (a gangster whom he has to pay off regularly), and convince his mother to give up the family mansion to help with cash flow problems.

However, Jimmy’s formidable mother is not about to give up everything she and her husband had built and Mr Pang is not someone you can get rid of easily.

When Beijing Duck House is burnt down, the drama and power-play really begin.

While all this is going on, restaurant manager Nan and old friend and colleague Ah-Jack discover that their friendship is turning into something else. Nan also has a wayward son who is in a relationship with Jimmy’s niece.

The story is engaging, and the dynamics between characters make this a very interesting read.

An excellent first novel from a person who was inspired by watching people.

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