Number One Chinese Restaurant

Number One Chinese Restaurant

A Novel

Book - 2018
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The Beijing Duck House in Rockville, Maryland, is not only a beloved go-to setting for hunger pangs and celebrations; it is its own world, inhabited by waiters and kitchen staff who have been fighting, loving, and aging within its walls for decades. When disaster strikes, this working family's controlled chaos is set loose, forcing each character to confront the conflicts that fast-paced restaurant life has kept at bay. Owner Jimmy Han hopes to leave his late father's homespun establishment for a fancier one. Jimmy's older brother, Johnny, and Johnny's daughter, Annie, ache to return to a time before a father's absence and a teenager's silence pushed them apart. Nan and Ah-Jack, longtime Duck House employees, are tempted to turn their thirty-year friendship into something else, even as Nan's son, Pat, struggles to stay out of trouble. And when Pat and Annie, caught in a mix of youthful lust and boredom, find themselves in a dangerous game that implicates them in the Duck House tragedy, their families must decide how much they are willing to sacrifice to help their children.
Publisher: New York, New York : Henry Holt and Company, ©2018.
ISBN: 9781250141293
Characteristics: 290 pages :,genealogical table ;,25 cm.

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ellenmargaret1953
Mar 03, 2019

Learn about the extended family history of the owners, waiters, staff, and larger community of the Beijing Duck House Chinese Restaurant. As an early disaster strikes the star-crossed lovers of two families entwined in the restaurant, you will see the trial and tribulations and successes of the two families over the years from their initial immigration into the US to the success of the Duck House. The failures and hopes for the future are revealed.

I had high expectations for this novel, especially because it claims to explore the inner-lives and the behind the scenes of a popular restaurant. Having spent many years working in restaurants, I was excited at the possibility of a novel reflecting the way in which those you work with in restaurants become your family. At every restaurant I’ve ever worked in, the staff becomes this weird, cobbled together, dysfunctional family—one that you depend on, fight with, grow with, etc.

While I enjoyed certain aspects of this novel, it fell a little flat. Li’s prose, especially her descriptions of the characters physical reactions to their inner emotions, is beautiful--- but doesn’t always feel natural. A lot of stomach aches and dizziness over emotions that seem to come out of no where. She describes characters emotions and the physical toll they take with unusual detail, but her descriptions of the characters themselves are so sparse that I can’t understand why one character would evoke such emotion in another. Their relationships and drama aren’t always believable because I can’t see why they’d even like each other. Most of the characters are highly unpleasant, therefore it’s hard to believe they have a side that attracts their fellow characters. There must be something in them I can’t see. I wish Li would’ve focused a bit more on their redeeming qualities, instead of their faults, so I could at least understand what draws the more likable characters to them. It’s almost as if there this was novel was the second in a series and we missed out on the first novel, the one with the crucial character and world building necessary to make the second, Number One Chinese Restaurant, truly engaging.

KatieD_KCMO Dec 17, 2018

I had high expectations for this novel, especially because it claims to explore the inner-lives and the behind the scenes of a popular restaurant. Having spent many years working in restaurants, I was excited at the possibility of a novel reflecting the way in which those you work with in restaurants become your family. At every restaurant I’ve ever worked in, the staff becomes this weird, cobbled together, dysfunctional family—one that you depend on, fight with, grow with, etc.

While I enjoyed certain aspects of this novel, it fell a little flat. Li’s prose, especially her descriptions of the characters physical reactions to their inner emotions, is beautiful--- but doesn’t always feel natural. A lot of stomach aches and dizziness over emotions that seem to come out of no where. She describes characters emotions and the physical toll they take with unusual detail, but her descriptions of the characters themselves are so sparse that I can’t understand why one character would evoke such emotion in another. Their relationships and drama aren’t always believable because I can’t see why they’d even like each other. Most of the characters are highly unpleasant, therefore it’s hard to believe they have a side that attracts their fellow characters. There must be something in them I can’t see. I wish Li would’ve focused a bit more on their redeeming qualities, instead of their faults, so I could at least understand what draws the more likable characters to them. It’s almost as if there this was novel was the second in a series and we missed out on the first novel, the one with the crucial character and world building necessary to make the second, Number One Chinese Restaurant, truly engaging.

t
TheresaAJ
Aug 13, 2018

Jimmy Han, a first-generation American, now owns the Duck House, a Chinese restaurant that his immigrant parents built from the ground up. Tired of the menu, tired of the customers, and especially tired of the long time employees, he wants to open his own restaurant in trendy Georgetown with a fusion Asian menu and beautiful customers. As his efforts slowly implode, the reader is drawn into a world where family obligations, employee needs, and the real cost of doing business collide. The story behind the founder's legend on the restaurant portrait is a lot more nuanced and painful. Through a darkly comic lens, Li explores the immigrant experience and its effect on the following generations.

debwalker May 29, 2018

Behind the scenes at a dysfunctional Chinese American family's restaurant!

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