Ambitious Fortune Cookie, Sweet and Sharp, Finally Crumbles

Later, spurred by an editor’s suggestion to find the best Chinese restaurant in the world, Lee tromps off to Peru.

Later, spurred by an editor’s suggestion to find the best Chinese restaurant in the world, Lee tromps off to Peru. (Of course.) And France. And Singapore. And London, Tokyo, Australia, Dubai, South Korea, and British Columbia. And Brazil, Mauritius, Jamaica, Rome and San Francisco. And maybe more; I lost count. Not to sound churlish, but did this come out of The Times’ travel budget? Isn’t there a war going on right now?

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All this globe-trotting, she writes, was part of “a personal journey to understand myself.” Fair enough, but it’s not clear how much more the reader understands at the end of it all. The charming, engaging person who told the story of the Powerball winners starts to feel like the guy in the bar who is a little too excited about Bob Seger. Partly, it’s that there isn’t much payoff: We learn that the “greatest” (not necessarily best) Chinese restaurant in the world is on the second level of a strip mall outside Vancouver. I will never question the veracity of this claim, nor, I suspect, will I ever have the opportunity to.

The Fortune Cookie Chronicles is best, or greatest, in its less-directed moments; for example, when Ms. Lee recounts the struggles of Chinese immigrants coming to and settling in America, where they are ubiquitous and yet, like the deliveryman stuck in the elevator, invisible.

Beyond that, the book is a light, mostly enjoyable read that goes on too long. But as my fortune cookie says, “It doesn’t matter. Who is without a flaw?” (Lucky numbers: 8, 15, 22, 34, 42, 44.)

 

Jesse Wegman is managing editor of The Observer. He can be reached at jwegman@observer.com.

Ambitious Fortune Cookie, Sweet and Sharp, Finally Crumbles