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Number One Chinese Restaurant (Hardcover)

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Staff Reviews

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 home and assimilated cultures. This incredibly important element, and what I believe to be the marker of the next great American novel, is portrayed so well in Li’s three generations of characters. My first read of the year, Number One Chinese Restaurant stands to be one of the best.

— From Ashley


Named a Most Anticipated Book of 2018 by The Millions and Cosmopolitan

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.
Product Details
ISBN: 9781250141293
ISBN-10: 125014129X
Publisher: Henry Holt & Company
Publication Date: June 19th, 2018
Pages: 304
Language: English