Number One Chinese Restaurant
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About the Author
NAMED A BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR BY NPR, Real Simple, Bustle, and The Wall Street Journal
Long Listed for The Center for Fiction's 2018 First Novel Prize
An Indie Next Pick for July
"So expertly does first-time novelist Lillian Li conjure the Beijing Duck House, a gaudy, tatterdemalion restaurant in Rockville, Md., that readers of Number One Chinese Restaurant can almost taste its signature dish and feel the heat of its woks. . . . By turns darkly funny and heartbreaking."
--The Wall Street Journal
"A deliciously comic debut novel about secrets, scandal, and the patriotism at the heart of the hustle."
--O, The Oprah Magazine
"Evocative. . . . Li's novel revolves around the tangled inner workings of the family-owned Beijing Duck House . . . Chinese-born family members and workers [for whom] the Beijing Duck House has displaced Beijing itself as 'the heart-center of the universe.' . . . [Li's writing] engrosses."
--New York Times Book Review
"Li shines in portraying lives shaped by work in this service industry . . . [rewarding] readers with a compelling family story about love, work, and what it means to serve."
"Fantastic. . . . Reminiscent of a prime time drama that you can't stop watching."
"[A] crackling debut. . . . Li's talent for human tragicomedy grows more evident by the page."
"[Li] never loses control of this tight, well-paced story, delivering tragedy, dark humor, and even a few surprises by the end."
"[Li] writes with a confidence that suggests decades of experience. . . . Imaginative and evocative . . . [Number One Chinese Restaurant] is an insightful and elegant novel, beautifully written and with an impressively large and diverse cast of characters."
"A wonderfully honest portrait of what it takes to make it in America."
--The Village Voice
"Blends delicious writing with intricate family dynamics, the perfect recipe for a page-turner to devour in the summer sun."
"A darkly comic novel about complicated families--those created by blood and those forged through circumstance. With wit and heart, Li explores a Chinese-American community torn between ambition and loyalty as each character strives for a world bigger than the restaurant that has bound them together. An exciting debut."
--Brit Bennett, New York Times bestselling author of The Mothers
"Li takes us into the world of restaurants that many Americans frequent, but don't understand. The Beijing Duck House . . . is a neighborhood staple, but the labor of the owner, staff, and cooks is invisible. Li brings that world to life, giving readers a glimpse into what it takes to keep establishments running and serving soul-stirring food."
"[Number One Chinese Restaurant] is a lot of things . . . a multigenerational immigration story, an insider look at the often grueling life of the career server or line cook, a romance, a coming-of-age (at any age). Most significantly, it is a joy to read--I couldn't get enough."
"A smart combination of Chinese-American life, service industry travails, and the ups and downs of belonging to a family, Number One Chinese Restaurant will make great discussion fare for book clubs."
--Shelf Awareness (starred review)
"A freshly written, punchily flavored, and richly realized tale of intergenerational family strife."
"Funny, tender, and tragic, Number One Chinese Restaurant is a perfectly seasoned debut."
"Darkly hilarious. . . . Number One Chinese Restaurant is anything but typical, as Li combines broiling anger and slow-simmering love in delicious proportions."
"Lillian Li is a brilliant young writer and someone to watch. Her work understands human secrets generally as well as secret places both in the world and in the mind; her narratives are complex, mysterious, moving, and surprising."
--Lorrie Moore, New York Times bestselling author of Bark and Birds of America
"I adored the vitality of this deviously charming and smart debut. Full of impassioned and ever-yearning characters, the novel practically thumps with heartache and sharp humor. The prose sparkles, too, with the rhythm and sting of exquisitely close observation and hard-earned wisdom, announcing Lillian Li as a striking new literary talent."
--Chang-rae Lee, New York Times bestselling author of On Such a Full Sea and Native Speaker
"Li vividly depicts the lives of her characters and gives the narrative a few satisfying turns, resulting in a memorable debut."
"A vibrant multi-generational debut. . . . This engrossing novel reads like a highly entertaining soap opera."
"Evoking every detail of [this restaurant] with riveting verisimilitude . . . Li's sense of the human comedy and of the aspirations burning in each human heart puts a philosophical spin on the losses of her characters. . . . A writer to watch."
"Li expertly crafts a deeply felt and beautifully evoked multigenerational novel. . . . Heartful, tender, necessary, and wise."
--The Book Report
"If a Chinese restaurant can be seen as a kind of cultural performance, Lillian Li takes us behind the scenes to offer a richly engrossing story of overlapping intrigues--commercial, generational, and romantic. She conjures the 'eco-system' of this workplace with insider acuity and renders her bustling, hustling clan of waiters, hostesses, cooks, and managers with brilliant feeling. Number One Chinese Restaurant is a vibrant, memorable debut."
--Peter Ho Davies, author of The Fortunes
"Li has crafted complex and nuanced characters . . . bringing depth and shape to the lives of those often found behind the scenes."
--Asian Review of Books
"A heady read of parents and children, youth and aging, and above all what it means to be family and how far we are willing to go to give it all up."
--The Hungry Reader
"Li taps into the universal tensions of generational conflict with a light, humane touch. . . . [A] deeply affecting, intricately detailed work."
--The National Book Review