Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2016-08-29
- Reviewer: Staff
In Chang’s sparkling debut novel, a family whose fortune has been lost in the 2008 financial crisis takes a cross-country road trip in an effort to regroup. Bouncy patriarch Charles Wang, who immigrated to Los Angeles from China by way of Taiwan when he was a young man and made a fortune manufacturing makeup, drives his daughter, teenage Grace, an avid fashion blogger, and his son, Andrew, an aspiring stand-up comic, across the country with Barbra, their stepmother. Their destination is a little town in the Catskills, where his oldest daughter, Saina, a conceptual artist who has retired in shame from the New York City art world, lives. The family stops in New Orleans, where virginal Andrew becomes temporarily involved with an older woman, and in Alabama, where Charles attempts to deliver a U-Haul full of custom makeup to a boutique country store. Various small crises, notably Saina’s attempt to decide between a sweet new lover and an unreliable older one, keep the plot percolating. Chang’s charming and quirky characters and comic observations make the novel a jaunty joy ride to remember. (Oct.)
A family's hilarious scheme to get back on top
Charles Wang pops another aspirin and thinks of all the ways America has failed him. The country may have made the no-name immigrant into a cosmetics billionaire and given him a designer Bel-Air mansion that even Martha Stewart covets, but when the markets crashed, so did his empire. Now that he thinks about it, Charles is also angry at the Japanese for invading China and at the Communists for taking his family’s ancestral lands. Clearly, the world has screwed with the Wangs long enough!
With this exaggerated tirade, Jade Chang begins her hysterical debut novel, The Wangs vs. the World, which is set soon after the financial crisis of the last decade. Too vain to believe that it’s all over, Charles has one last scheme to return glory to the family. The first step is a cross-country drive from Los Angeles to New York to gather up the Wang clan, before returning to China to somehow reclaim their lost land.
Embarking on this epic road trip in a borrowed station wagon are Charles; his second wife, Barbra; and two of his children, Andrew, a wannabe comedian, and Grace, a teen fashion blogger, each gathered up from an expensive school Charles can no longer afford. Their collective hope lies in upstate New York with Saina, Charles’ oldest daughter, who escaped the financial catastrophe but has plenty of personal struggles.
Though the Wangs are poor and desperate, they never lose humor or hope. The zany scheme to reclaim the family riches takes a backseat to the family relationships, including loving, supportive and playful moments between the siblings. Charles, too, evolves from a failed businessman to a loving father who is willing to do anything to make sure his children are taken care of. Readers will be cheering for these underdogs.