Number One Chinese Restaurant isn't really the book I thought it was going to be, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. I was expecting a slice of life account and while I sort of got that, I wasn't expecting a story about crime and regret either. This story was borderline depressing to me, and while the writing is fine, the story itself was not my favorite.
The story centers around Jimmy, the second son of an immigrant restaurateur who has taken over The Duck House in suburban Maryland. The problem is Jimmy has bigger dreams, and wants to open a glittering new Asian fusion restaurant on the waterfront. How to unload The Duck House? Well, the answer may surprise. Jimmy gets tangled up in an organized crime figure who's been around the family for years, and he has to deal with his brother Johnny as well, who's a little more with it than he is but has become uninvolved in the day-to-day restaurant business.
Some of the other perspectives here are Nan the manager who runs the place but is caught up in a relationship with one of the waiters, Ah-Jack the aforementioned waiter who happens to have a wife who is leaving him, Pat the asshole son of Nan who gets in over his head, Annie the daughter of Johnny who gets mixed up with Pat, and frankly? I didn't like any of these people. Maybe Nan. Everyone else irritated me to no end. Jimmy is terrible and shortsighted, and his moral compass is iffy to say the least, and the others aren't much better. The only person I really liked at all was Jimmy's mother Feng Fei- she was sarcastic and always bitching at her sons, but she was the only one who was funny.
We do get a look behind the scenes of a Chinese restaurant, which I was hoping for, but considering the subject matter we don't get that much- in fact a surprising amount of this book takes place outside the restaurant. And a lot of the story is people scheming, second-guessing one another, and generally being vapid. I had to skim at times and considered DNF'ing once or twice, but I finished. The ending was lacking for me as much as the rest of the book- I just didn't really feel for any of these characters, none of them came alive for me at all.
They're all downers, and I learned more than I needed to about Ah-Jack's aging body and his confused feelings about his wife, or Jimmy's erratic feelings for his real estate agent who uses him- at one point Jimmy drives while intoxicated and I was hoping he'd hit a tree. At least the matriarch of the clan provides occasional comic relief, and while I think the writing is fine, this is a story I just couldn't connect with.
I don't think the cover seems to fit the story you described, maybe that's why this was such a let down.ReplyDelete
It definitely doesn't, and that may be partially why I was expecting something else- that and the blurb (which does hint at some darkness, but also humor which I found lacking).Delete
Meh, sounds overall kind of underwhelming. Especially since it’s not really what you were expecting. Not every book has to be happy and hopeful, but this one really does sound like a downer.ReplyDelete
Definitely underwhelming. One of my bigger disappointments of the year, actually.Delete
Yeah no. Not if you skimmed and wanted to dnfReplyDelete
Yikes, that does sound depressing! I hope your next one is a bit cheerier!ReplyDelete
It was depressing a bit- I definitely needed something lighter afterwrds.Delete
That's a bummer. It's not surprising you didn't like the story when the characters were awful. I usually have to like at least a couple of characters to truly enjoy the story otherwise I'm reading about hateful people and who wants to do that? Great review Greg! Hope the next book is amazing! :)ReplyDelete
Thanks Rachel! And so true- I like a dark character to a point, but this... there just wasn't enough there to make me care about any of them?Delete
I'm not a fan of depressing reads, or reads when you don't like any of the main characters. Think I'll pass on this one.ReplyDelete
Wow!! Scathing review!! I thought this book might be a good, quirky read, but alas, I'll be skipping it.ReplyDelete
Tammy is right about the cover. It honestly sounds so boring, too. Like... it's clearly supposed to be character driven, yet since all the characters are a veritable who's who of human crap, why would anyone care!? It is quite unfortunate. I looked it up on Goodreads just now, to see how many pages you had to suffer through, and wow, you are NOT alone in your feelings about this book. An overall 3.2 rating, yikes. Hope you get to read a much more exciting book soon- I feel like The Cheerleaders should at least deliver on that front? Fingers crossed for you!ReplyDelete
But it has a great cover! Sorry this one didn't work out for you. I think I will have to pass on it.ReplyDelete
Bummer! I have a hard time with depressing books, too. They just put me in a mood when I read them, and then I feel funky afterwards. If I had started skipping around, I likely would have DNFd it myself, so congrats on making it to the end. It's unfortunate that it didn't work. I hope your next read is fabulous!ReplyDelete
Lindsi @ Do You Dog-ear?
It looks like it would be such a light-hearted book too. I kind of hate bait-and-switch books like this, even if I end up liking them, because they will always be a disappointment when you realize they are different than you expected.ReplyDelete
I've been wondering about this book, and your review is the first one of it that I've seen. I'm kind of dissapointed. I'd hoped for more from this one.ReplyDelete
That cover would put me off for a start! It screams animal cruelty!ReplyDelete
I love foodie/restaurant themed books so it would be a bummer for me that this takes mostly outside of it.ReplyDelete
Doesn't sound like my kind of thing anyway.
Karen @ For What It's Worth
How disappointing! This could have been a really fun book.ReplyDelete
Funny, someone was looking for this at my library the other day. What gets me the most is that it is not mostly centered at the restaurant. Like what is the point of the title?ReplyDelete
The mom sounds awesome.
Thanks for the heads up. I don't like crime stories.ReplyDelete
I'm sorry to hear this wasn't a better read for you. It sounds completely different from what I was expecting as well so you're definitely not alone in that.ReplyDelete
I thought this was only okay, but agree that the writing was fine. I was also expecting light and fun . . .ReplyDelete
Hmm...I think I need to pass on this one.ReplyDelete
Books not being as expected can be great, it's something I experience a lot and it cna go either way. It's either a total hit or total miss so it sucks this one wasn't what you were looking for. I have to say, from what you've said I wouldn't have gotten very far into and some of the questionable decisions are not good.ReplyDelete