Number One Chinese Restaurant by Lillian Li [in Booklist]
When Chinese American immigrant Bobby Han died, entrusting his Beijing Duck House restaurant to the next generation, he couldn’t have fathomed how quickly his 30-year-old legacy would go up in flames.
His younger son, Jimmy – dubbed “little boss” by the restaurant staff, many of whom watched him grow up – wants out of the suburban Maryland family business, having already bought a swankier Georgetown establishment. Johnny, the older brother, has been avoiding family drama by teaching in Hong Kong, but his reprieve is short-lived. Their aging mother has lost all patience with her incompetent offspring, leaving plenty of room for her sly cousin, Pang, to play out his own machinations.
Meanwhile, the Duck House’s two longest-standing employees, Jack and Nan, face tribulations of their own: Jack’s cancer-weakened wife has seemingly run off; Nan’s high-school-expelled son is caught in flagrante with the boss’s niece.
Debut novelist Lillian Li’s prominent acknowledgment of her Princeton professors, including Chang-rae Lee, Jeffery Eugenides, and Lorrie Moore, distinctly showcases her literary pedigree in this raucous, bittersweet non-love story across cultures, generations, morals, and other seemingly impossible divides.
Review: “Fiction,” Booklist, May 1, 2018