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The Wangs vs. the World: A Novel by Jade…

The Wangs vs. the World: A Novel (2016)

by Jade Chang

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5303929,461 (3.25)37
"A hilarious debut novel about a wealthy but fractured Chinese immigrant family that had it all, only to lose every last cent--and about the road trip they take across America that binds them back together. Charles Wang is mad at America. A brash, lovable immigrant businessman who built a cosmetics empire and made a fortune, he's just been ruined by the financial crisis. Now all Charles wants is to get his kids safely stowed away so that he can go to China and attempt to reclaim his family's ancestral lands--and his pride. Charles pulls Andrew, his aspiring comedian son, and Grace, his style-obsessed daughter, out of schools he can no longer afford. Together with their stepmother, Barbra, they embark on a cross-country road trip from their foreclosed Bel-Air home to the upstate New York hideout of the eldest daughter, disgraced art world it-girl Saina. But with his son waylaid by a temptress in New Orleans, his wife ready to defect for a set of 1,000-thread-count sheets, and an epic smash-up in North Carolina, Charles may have to choose between the old world and the new, between keeping his family intact and finally fulfilling his dream of starting anew in China. Outrageously funny and full of charm, The Wangs vs. the World is an entirely fresh look at what it means to belong in America--and how going from glorious riches to (still name-brand) rags brings one family together in a way money never could"--… (more)



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Charles Wang emigrated from Taipei to Los Angeles in the late 70s, and used his father’s business connections to build a makeup production empire and become very, very rich. Then, in the Great Recession of 2008, he lost everything. Charles packs up his second wife and their housekeeper, checks his youngest child out of her expensive boarding school, and leaves his foreclosed house to drive across the country. They pick up the middle Wang child, Andrew, from college, on their way northeast to the home of the oldest child, Saina, in upstate New York. When they get there, Charles plans to return to China, where he technically never lived, to reclaim the land stripped from his ancestors by the communists.

I struggled to write a plot summary of this book that sounded at all interesting. There’s a lot of aspects to the story that seem like they could be interesting, but never pan out to anything. Ostensibly, the Great Recession is the cause of the Wangs’ downfall, but actually Charles just made a bad business decision, against the advice of his business advisors, and stupidly bet his whole house and his children’s multi-million dollar trust funds on it. I couldn’t see any actual connection to the Great Recession besides the timing. The characters are deeply unlikeable - Charles cheats on his wife constantly, his wife Barbra hates everyone, and eldest child Saina cheats on her boyfriend with her ex-boyfriend who she knows just got another woman pregnant. Being in any of their heads is very unpleasant. I did enjoy the ending, but it was not worth the trip to get there. ( )
  norabelle414 | Sep 13, 2019 |
The characters were depressing and flat. This was a disappointment. ( )
  Beth.Clarke | Jun 28, 2019 |
This maybe the straw that breaks my camel's back. Just one too many workshopped novels that starts with a soapy story and shoehorns in something about ethnicity. This is no Joy Luck Club. It's just a tale of spoiled rich people losing their money and going on a long journey (geddit?) to find out what "really" matters. Oh, and they're Chinese-Americans... so... er... there's that.

The best bits are the interactions between the children. The worst bits are any time any of them consider in any way what their Chinese-ness means. It just feels workshopped and inauthentic including two separate scenes where a wannabe stand-up delivers excruciating sets about being 'Asian'.

Just not good enough. ( )
  asxz | Mar 13, 2019 |
Gave up after 50 pages. The characters felt like......characters, two-dimensional types rather than people. And the sex was truly cringe-worthy. The writing is pleasant and breezy, but that wasn't enough to convince me to travel any farther with them. ( )
  badube | Mar 6, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 37 (next | show all)
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The future has an ancient heart. --CARLO LEVI
To get rich is glorious. --DENG XIAO PING
For the Chang's (all three of them)!
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Charles Wang was mad at America.
Oh shit. He was going to have to work! Actually work. At some uninspired, uninspiring job. Maybe with an apron on. For money. Money that he would need to pay for things like rent and phone bills and air-conditioning - or maybe air-conditioning was free? It seemed like one of those things that should be a basic human right for people living in the Southwest.
In the end, all we had were the people to whom we were beholden.
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Average: (3.25)
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