The sharply comic debut about the tangled lives of people working, fighting and falling in love in a neighbourhood Chinese restaurant.
'An enthralling plot line reminiscent of a prime time drama that you can't stop watching... we couldn't put it down' - Bon Appétit
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.
'Li's talent for human tragicomedy grows more evident by the page... Li generously realizes the dreams, the regrets, and the resilience of a family holding on to its American dream, hoping it doesn't slip away' - Entertainment Weekly
Lillian Li received her BA from Princeton and her MFA from the University of Michigan. She has received the Hopwood Award in Short Fiction, and her work has been featured in Guernica, Granta and Jezebel. She currently teaches English composition and Creative Writing at the University of Michigan and works as a bookseller at Literati Bookstore in Ann Arbor.
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