Loved, loved, loved The Last Chinese Chef. Mones effortlessly ties so many strands together within the novel to create a strong plot with beautifully developed characters. She manageds to include Chinese culinary history, a woman's coming to terms with grief and loss, the examination of secrets in relationships, feeling like an outsider, the effect that race/ethnicity/culture have on one's definition of self, the sensuality of food, family relations, and a love story all in only 300 pages without making the novel feel overcrowded.
In fact, I enjoyed this novel so much that after finishing it I proceeded to buy and devour the author's other two novels, which were also set in China. Mones's first novel is called Lost in Translation, but don't let that keep you from reading it. It has absolutely nothing in common with the movie of the same name except maybe the underlying theme of a woman's feeling lost and finding herself through her experiences in an Asian country. Her other novel, A Cup of Light, has similar themes, but features a woman discovering China through it's ancient pottery.
Motherless Brooklyn is a great novel because it takes a relatively common theme: the detective noir story, and turns it on its ear. This Brooklyn raised orphan turned detective narrator has Tourette's Syndrome. Not only are we following the path to find the murderer of Lionel Essrog's father figure slash mob boss, but we're inside the head of someone who suffers from the uncontrollable need to spout nonsense nonstop throughout the entire book. It's a testament to Jonathan Lethem's talent that whether irritating, funny or sympathetic, the repetitive words spewing from Lionel's mouth never get old.