Number One Chinese Restaurant (Hardcover)
July 2018 Indie Next List
“Growing up in a small town in the ’60s, my first experience of Chinese food served tableside in a grand manner was on our annual vacation to visit family. The Empress restaurant—near the White House!—boasted about its Peking duck, just like the suburban D.C. Duck House in Number One Chinese Restaurant. The Duck House connects three generations of a restaurant dynasty and three star-crossed pairs of lovers, who are about to find out that, like a good stir fry, timing is everything. This is a masterful debut. I came for the fun Chinese restaurant setting, but I stayed for the characters.
— Carla Bayha, Literati Bookstore, Ann Arbor, MI
Named a Summer Must-Read by TIME, Buzzfeed, The Wall Street Journal, Star Tribune, Fast Company, The Village Voice, Toronto Star, Fortune Magazine, InStyle, and O, The Oprah Magazine
"A joy to read--I couldn't get enough."
"This novel practically thumps with heartache and sharp humor."
--Chang-rae Lee, New York Times bestselling author of Native Speaker
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 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.
Generous in spirit, unaffected in its intelligence, multi-voiced, poignant, and darkly funny, Number One Chinese Restaurant looks beyond red tablecloths and silkscreen murals to share an unforgettable story about youth and aging, parents and children, and all the ways that our families destroy us while also keeping us grounded and alive.
About the Author
Lillian Li received her BA from Princeton and her MFA from the University of Michigan. She is the recipient of a Hopwood Award in Short Fiction, as well as Glimmer Train's New Writer Award. Her work has been featured in Guernica, Granta, and Jezebel. She is from the D.C. metro area and lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Number One Chinese Restaurant is her first novel.