Official Review: I Believe in Fortune Cookies by Richard Yu

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ButterscotchCherrie
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Official Review: I Believe in Fortune Cookies by Richard Yu

Post by ButterscotchCherrie » 21 Jun 2019, 05:26

[Following is an official OnlineBookClub.org review of "I Believe in Fortune Cookies" by Richard Yu.]
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3 out of 4 stars
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I love fortune cookies, not least because their messages can work on so many levels. One that could augur well or badly is: “The more you plan, the harder coincidence may hit you.” That would resonate with author Richard Yu, who had hoped to spend his retirement travelling and perfecting his tennis when he was diagnosed with leukaemia. In a twist not unlike those in his stories, a man who had previously struggled to compose an aerogramme to his parents in Hong Kong discovered a talent for writing. After a bone marrow transplant, he attempted to write a memoir but found himself penning short stories instead, using fantasy as an escape. The stories collected in I Believe in Fortune Cookies not only chronicle the author's treatments but are also inspired by his travels, his childhood in Hong Kong, and his adult life in the USA.

In addition to having travelled widely, Yu is cultured, so that the short stories also draw on Ingmar Bergman films, Bach, art, and more. The tales are so diverse that it is hard to generalize about them. Yu does not shy away from fusing spiritual imagery, for example. A fascinating aspect of the stories on spiritual themes is that Yu debunks superstition while showing how the realities behind the symbols cannot be denied. So it is that in the story “Delicious Red”, a woman receives a tempting apple following an introduction to the Kama Sutra. Her eyes are opened not by her boyfriend, who could not bear to set foot in a temple, but by her Indian tour guide; a common theme in the stories is that of people who end up in the wrong place married to the wrong person. The role of fate in correcting these mismatches is another theme.

Each story took just minutes to read, and Yu always got straight to colouring in the background while building tension. I was in awe at the stories’ neat packaging. One condensed an entire murder mystery plot into a few pages, in which a sleuth paid out a long line to catch a big fish. In time-honoured detective story fashion, the serial killer eventually made a mistake, but that wasn’t all – like all of the stories, that one veered sharply at the end.

As is apparent from that example, the stories were often dark and fatalistic, although some took lighter turns. Although sex and death were frequent topics, there were no really gory or graphic passages, making this collection suitable for teens and up. This anthology comes highly recommended to anyone who relishes short fiction that showcases the best of the craft. Not a word was wasted, while telling details were picked out, such as the taste of the kimchi soup served to a man by the wife he was planning to murder.

Not all fortune cookies are created alike, of course, and there were occasional weaknesses. For example, the voice in a story narrated by a six-year-old didn’t sound like that of a child, and one denouement was too predictable. Some characters seemed stereotyped, like a fat person who was compared to a puffer fish.

With only minor lapses in quality, the book was professionally edited and I found no errors in the early sections or towards the end. However, there was something of a dip in the middle, and my error count went over ten. That’s the fundamental reason for my rating of three out of four stars; the book was excellent overall. Crack open I Believe in Fortune Cookies to feast on a banquet of paradoxes.

******
I Believe in Fortune Cookies
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Miriam Molina
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Post by Miriam Molina » 22 Jun 2019, 04:27

Hmmm, this looks like something a "fortune" (I mean "treasure") hunter would shout "Eureka!" for. I hope I find the chance to crack it.

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Post by Ekta Swarnkar » 22 Jun 2019, 05:02

I thoroughly enjoyed your review, it was informative and interesting. I hope to read the book sometime.

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Post by kdstrack » 22 Jun 2019, 10:49

The variety of topics covered support the title. I like the fact that the book has several different settings. This looks intriguing. Great review! Thanks.

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Post by CommMayo » 22 Jun 2019, 12:36

This sounds like a worthwhile book to crack open, despite some of the smaller issues.

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Post by Brendan Donaghy » 22 Jun 2019, 13:21

Nothing I like better than feasting on a banquet of paradoxes! :) The book sounds interesting and well worth a look. Great review!

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Post by ButterscotchCherrie » 22 Jun 2019, 15:25

Miriam Molina wrote: ↑
22 Jun 2019, 04:27
Hmmm, this looks like something a "fortune" (I mean "treasure") hunter would shout "Eureka!" for. I hope I find the chance to crack it.
It was quite the discovery! Thanks for your comment.

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Post by ButterscotchCherrie » 22 Jun 2019, 15:26

Ekta Swarnkar wrote: ↑
22 Jun 2019, 05:02
I thoroughly enjoyed your review, it was informative and interesting. I hope to read the book sometime.
It is indeed worth a look. Thanks for reading and commenting!

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ButterscotchCherrie
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Post by ButterscotchCherrie » 22 Jun 2019, 15:37

kdstrack wrote: ↑
22 Jun 2019, 10:49
The variety of topics covered support the title. I like the fact that the book has several different settings. This looks intriguing. Great review! Thanks.
That was an excellent aspect. Various places in China provided some of the settings; it's been a while since I read anything set there. Thanks for your comment!

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ButterscotchCherrie
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Post by ButterscotchCherrie » 22 Jun 2019, 15:42

CommMayo wrote: ↑
22 Jun 2019, 12:36
This sounds like a worthwhile book to crack open, despite some of the smaller issues.
It did indeed harbour much wisdom. I'd have given it four stars if it weren't for the ten-error rule. Thanks for your comment!

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Post by ButterscotchCherrie » 22 Jun 2019, 15:44

Brendan Donaghy wrote: ↑
22 Jun 2019, 13:21
Nothing I like better than feasting on a banquet of paradoxes! :) The book sounds interesting and well worth a look. Great review!
There's nothing quite like finishing a meal with a fortune cookie! Thanks for your comment.

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Post by Cecilia_L » 22 Jun 2019, 16:26

Each story took just minutes to read, and Yu always got straight to colouring in the background while building tension. I was in awe at the stories’ neat packaging. One condensed an entire murder mystery plot into a few pages, in which a sleuth paid out a long line to catch a big fish. In time-honoured detective story fashion, the serial killer eventually made a mistake, but that wasn’t all – like all of the stories, that one veered sharply at the end.
Impressive--this sounds like a collection I would enjoy. Thanks for the recommendation.

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Post by Wyland » 23 Jun 2019, 02:25

The diverse tales seem to cover quite a lot. The Indian concept of Kamasutra, for example, intrigues me. Thanks for the wonderful review.

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Post by Prisallen » 23 Jun 2019, 06:39

This certainly seems like a mixture of themes that interest me. Thank you for a great review!

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Post by ButterscotchCherrie » 23 Jun 2019, 07:08

Cecilia_L wrote: ↑
22 Jun 2019, 16:26
Each story took just minutes to read, and Yu always got straight to colouring in the background while building tension. I was in awe at the stories’ neat packaging. One condensed an entire murder mystery plot into a few pages, in which a sleuth paid out a long line to catch a big fish. In time-honoured detective story fashion, the serial killer eventually made a mistake, but that wasn’t all – like all of the stories, that one veered sharply at the end.
Impressive--this sounds like a collection I would enjoy. Thanks for the recommendation.
I hadn't been reading short stories often of late. This reminded me of how amazing they can be. Thanks for your comment.

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