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Number One Chinese Restaurant
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Number One Chinese Restaurant

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  142 Ratings  ·  77 Reviews
An exuberant and wise multigenerational debut novel about the complicated lives and loves of people working in everyone’s favorite Chinese restaurant.

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 withi
Hardcover, 304 pages
Expected publication: June 19th 2018 by Henry Holt and Co.
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Larry H
May 08, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: netgalley
Growing up in the New Jersey suburbs in the mid-1980s, my family ate dinner out nearly every Sunday evening, and more often than not, we ate Chinese food, as did many other families in my town. (I used to joke that there were classmates I saw more regularly at the Chinese restaurant than I did in high school!)

While there were several different Chinese restaurants in our area, and everyone had a favorite, we frequently ate at one particular restaurant, whose owners my parents had known for a num
Kasa Cotugno
Although restaurants provide centerpieces of the novel, there are other invitations for potential life changing confrontations framed by the food, and the way in which that food is prepared and offered gives scenes immediacy as well as normalization of what could be explosive situations. This is true of almost every culture. Discordant exchanges are either enhanced or softened by the sharing of a meal, and Lillian Li slyly incorporates such practices throughout this deceptively light toned novel ...more
Jan 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literature
This novel is a feast to me in many respects. First, it is full of psychological dramas in multiple main characters, not only about the conflicts in their minds as they act, but also including sketches of the psychological development in their lives. These owners and workers of the Chinese restaurant confess and tell their life stories, in addition to the restaurant scene as seen from a narrator. As a bonus a work scene of cooks of a non-Chinese restaurant is also depicted briefly but vividly. T ...more
Jan 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
if you've read "tiger mom", "everything i never told you", and "crazy rich asians", THIS is the next book you HAVE to read

Love how you see asian immigrants vs. their children born in america (both contained in the umbrella term "asian american" despite being so different)

Jan 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I used to work at a Chinese restaurant many years ago. This book brought back so many of my memories. It made all those people I used to work with alive again. The love, expectations, frustrations, conflicts and struggles between the two generations (first generation of immigrant Chinese parents and second generation of American born Chinese) also touched me deeply, like Nan and her son Pat, Johnny and his daughter Annie, Jimmy and his strong minded mother Feng Fei. Through the author’s writing, ...more
Chris W
Jan 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
interesting analysis of the many roles of food and sharing meals together
pushes the concept of what constitutes a "family" - definitely not your stereotypical or boring "love you no matter what" kind of family you see so often in american literature
enjoyed seeing the dramatic business side of the industry, not just the food, as well

fantastic read! consumed it in one sitting; couldn't stop myself
Dec 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
Delightful book. Characters that make you want to read the next page. So much going on, but exactly how you'd like to spend an afternoon reading.

Thank you to Henry, Holt and Company, NetGalley and author for the chance to read this book. While I got the book for free, it had no bearing on the rating I gave it.
Fey Fan
Jan 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
beautiful moments of poetry so well inserted into each chapter I found myself re-reading entire paragraphs over and over just to make sure I fully-appreciated the full effect of Lillian Li's words; no idea how she manages to be so subtle yet so powerful, but she does it well

the multi-faceted storyline also has plenty to be enjoyed for the more casual readers as well!
3.5 Stars. Review to follow.
Feb 18, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: family, fiction, netgalley
Agitated. That’s how I felt reading Number One Chinese Restaurant. I felt agitated and unsettled throughout the entire book. The characters agitated me on almost every page, as they argued with and annoyed each other on a constant basis.

This is the story of a Chinese family, the Hans, and the restaurant dynasty they’ve struggled to maintain for several decades. Alongside the Hans are their employees, friends, and business acquaintances, some of whom they’ve known since childhood.

Jimmy Han, the
Kevin Hu
I received this book from NetGalley and was excited to dive into a fiction that dealt with themes surrounding the Chinese restaurant life. I personally grew up as a product of this very niche subculture. I think that Li does some things well here. She illuminates the generational barrier that disallows a conventionally intimate relationship between 1st gen parents, who toil endlessly to pave the way for their progeny, and the 2nd gen children who yearns for the existence of some kind of a relati ...more
Mar 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Wow, this book really makes you feel . The characters are complex and all have a myriad of personalities. The language is so creative and expressive. The pain the characters feel, whether physical or emotional, isn't just an abstract concept in this book. Through Li's painstakingly honest descriptions, my heart genuinely felt pain and anger for each character. The concepts of love and family are also thoroughly explored in this novel through the relationships the characters have. In this book, ...more
Jan 01, 2018 rated it it was ok
Thank you NetGalley for a digital advanced copy. Sadly, I did not like this book at all. I had considered DNF at 25 percent in but persisted. There was nothing about the main family to like at all. I don’t mind flawed characters, but I need to also like the characters and I did not. There were two secondary characters Nan and Jack, and Nan’s son that I had some empathy for their story. But all these characters were just sad and some of them mean. And there didn’t seem to be any resolution for mo ...more
Topher G
Jan 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
dark humor intermingled with lighthearted themes:
Wendi Lee
*3.75 stars*

There’s a lot of good things to say about this book about a Chinese restaurant and the people who work there. Brothers Jimmy and Johnny Han own the business, but that’s where all similarities end. There’s also Nan and Ah-Jack, employees who have been there since the very beginning, still struggling to make ends meet and untangle their complicated feelings for one another.

It was a compelling read, with lots of soap-operaesque twists and turns. I especially felt for Nan, a single moth
May 31, 2018 rated it liked it
Thanks to LibraryThing and Holt publishing for this ARC.

I really enjoyed this book about a Chinese restaurant in Rockville, MD (where I live coincidentally, though it never mentions the name) and it's quirky characters working in the restaurant and the family dynamics of Jimmy and Johnny the two brothers who own it.

I really liked the blending of the employees and the close camaraderie of the Chinese community in the restaurant.
Lolly K Dandeneau
Dec 10, 2017 rated it liked it
Via my blog:
'Uncle Pang was always picking something apart.'

Uncle Pang is more than picking everything apart, he is the master controlling his puppets. Between the workers and the owners, the real action takes place behind the scenes, not with the patrons. Jimmy Han doesn’t want to work under his deceased father’s shadow anymore, he longs for an edgier more modern restaurant and no one is going to stop him. Certainly not his overbearing old mother, nor his
Kate Olson
I was given an opportunity to read an early copy of this title with the agreement that I would hold my full review until publication date. With that being said, I highly recommend this to the following types of readers:

1) Fans of family/domestic fiction
2) Fans of foodie fiction
3) Fans of books about the immigrant experience in America
4) Readers looking to expand their cultural experiences
Annie Wang
Feb 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
In the first half of the book, it took some patience for me to follow the story—the life and dream of Jimmy, his brother Johnny, his mother Feng Fei, his father’s friend, Uncle Pang, the restaurant manager Nan, and waiters, busboys, … . I was completed attracted in the second half of the book. At the end, I suddenly realized, there are some much deeper meanings in the story. Jimmy, who has worked for 30 years in his father’s restaurant, just wants to have a new restaurant, completely different t ...more
Feb 27, 2018 rated it liked it
I received an ARC from NetGalley. I had a rough start with this book. It was difficult for me to get pulled in, and I nearly put it aside permanently...But, I kept on, and I'm really happy that I did. Once I got to know each superbly done character it was effortless. The story unfolded and carried me right along. A family story, but with elements of a greasy dark underworld, favors and payoffs... It almost reminded me of Goodfellas, only with Chinese food. LOL I really enjoyed it!
Jan 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This amazing debut novel will leave you with permanent impressions on what family can be as Lillian Li excels in character creation, particularly that of older generations. I found myself in disbelief that someone so young could encapsulate the wisdom of relationships aged forty years so well without having lived them. More than this, however, is the representation of dual-cultured people, particularly immigrants and the inner and outer conflicts they experience in the juxtaposition of their hom ...more
amanda eve
I don't believe that characters have to be particularly likable, but they do have to be interesting. There wasn't a single character I cared about; some were outright obnoxious but most were just mildly irritating.

There were a few really lovely turns of phrase; unfortunately, I was bored by the story over all.
Anthony Martinez
Jan 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shines light on the world of the high-class chinese restaurant industry, a cuisine that is almost never regarded as high-class
Brian Hu
Jan 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I found this book to be incredibly relatable and am thankful to know I am not alone in my experiences
James Garth
Jan 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Simply beautiful language throughout - bravo!
Apr 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
You can also read my reviews of WP:

3.5 stars rounded to 4

Number One Chinese Restaurant is a truly original tale of the innermost secrets of a Chinese family-owned restaurant. Behind the accents and the shuffling of Asian flavors is a poignant look at the relationships that build a microcosm of love, loyalty, and interconnection. And the dark side of doing business.

Jimmy Han has his eye on opening a restaurant better than the one left by his father's legac
May 30, 2018 rated it liked it
3.5⭐Stars. The Beijing Duck House is the Han family restaurant and the centerpiece of this novel about a dysfunctional family. Although dysfunction reigns humor is never far from the page and the crazy mysterious Uncle Pang is a shadowy gangster type who seemingly has his hand in everything as the ultimate puppet master. Bobby Han is the patriarch of the family and his dream of a Chinese restaurant in America comes to fruition in Rockville, MD. Bobby has two sons, Jimmy and Johnny who have two v ...more
May 24, 2018 rated it it was ok
I expected to like this book. Quite a bit. Didn't. 2.5 but cannot round up as the boredom factor predominated.

I live near Rockville, Maryland, where the Number One Chinese Restaurant/Beijing Duck House is situated. I like books set in my area. And I like books with an ethnic flavor; potentially 2 for 2. But this was MEH. Did. Not. Care.

Setting: A "[restaurant inhabits its]...own world, inhabited by waiters and kitchen staff who have been fighting, loving, and aging within its walls for decades."
I thought this book was a superb debut emphasizing family loyalty between two generations. Taking place in a Chinese Restaurant and told with dark humor Li brings to life characters that love, hate, and make sacrifices that keep their families together. The story started out slow but but due to great character development the plot became interesting and involved. Lillian Li is an author I plan on following. I received this ARC from Librarything and Henry Holt and Company. Thank you.
Diane Payne
Feb 11, 2018 rated it liked it
At times, I felt like this was more a made-for-TV movie more than a novel because the characters weren't fleshed out more so they seemed a bit cliche. It was somewhat entertaining, but without adding spoiler alerts, I expected more to happen with our two youngest characters in the novel. We get to the end of the novel and are faced with a Six Months Later notice to avoid having the characters
change or reveal any self-discovery.
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Lillian Li was born in Ann Arbor, MI, but grew up in Potomac, MD. She is a graduate from the University of Michigan's Helen Zell Writers' Program, where she received her MFA in fiction. Her first novel is forthcoming from Henry Holt (Macmillan) in 2018. Her work has appeared in Granta, Guernica, Glimmer Train, and Jezebel. She writes for the Michigan Quarterly Review. Currently, she lives in Ann A ...more
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