The Diary of a Nouveau Soccer Mom: Number One Chinese Restaurant by Lillian Li {Review}

Monday, July 09, 2018

Number One Chinese Restaurant by Lillian Li {Review}

I've been working my way through books on my to-read list and my NetGalley requests.  I just finished one of my NetGalley picks and it was awesome!

Lillian Li's debut novel chronicles the lives of the characters from a past-storied Chinese restaurant, the Duck House, in suburban Maryland, and would definitely end up on my summer picks list.


Johnny and Jimmy are the Chinese-born, American-raised sons of the now-deceased original owner, with two different plans for the restaurant they are now tasked with. Nan is the longtime manager, preoccupied with her friendship with Ah-Jack, an elderly waiter, and issues with her only son, Pat. Ah-Jack struggles with his relationship with his wife compared to his friendship with Nan, while Pat enters a concerning fling with Annie, the daughter of Johnny. Behind the scenes, the brother's mother, Feng Fei, and their father's old family friend, Uncle Pang, factor into the growing discord. When disaster strikes at the restaurant, the bonds of friendship and loyalty within the group are tested.

The story is told through alternating perspectives of the main characters, bringing forward the history of the group and how the present-day problems have arisen. The older generation of Feng Fei, Nan, and Ah-Jack hold to the old world ideals, especially of loyalty, while the younger, namely Jimmy, Annie, and Pat have grasped the American dream. The conflict between the two worlds fuels the turmoil between the characters and affects their reactions to each situation, as their loyalty to each other is called into question.

Li has written a compelling debut novel, with interesting characters and a story that keeps the reader invested, in a clever contemporary fiction/literature book. I would recommend it for fans of the traditional family saga, as well as those who enjoy reading about the cultural and generational differences in newly American families. I look forward to reading more from Li.

Dislosure: I received an advanced copy of Number One Chinese Restaurant from NetGalley for review purposes.  I was not obligated to post on my blog, all opinions are my own.
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