Tuesday, October 18, 2016

"The Wangs vs.The World"

This is a first novel by Jade Chang, about whom there is no information.  There must be, but none was discovered here.  How the book found its way into my hands is unclear but, always searching for new reads, it was discovered.  The book was published earlier this month.

It's a family story.  The father, Charles Wang, is a Chinese immigrant to the United States, coming from Taiwan but originally from a prosperous mainland China family that was disrupted by the conflicts of the 1930's and '40's before his birth.  He becomes highly successful as a cosmetics manufacturer in Los Angeles. With three children, the death of their mother in an accident, and then a second wife, from Taiwan, he spends freely until making, and doubling down on, a terrible business decision in that rough year 2008 and loses his fortune.

The family's way of life is completely disrupted, major house in Bel-Air foreclosed, and the children, ages 16, 21, and 28, are gathered up in L.A., Phoenix, and upstate New York.  In the process, a road trip across the U.S. is undertaken and the family both connects and disconnects in ways that are hopeful and distressing.  The ultimate goal of Charles Wang is to go back to China to reclaim his ancestral property.

This book goes in too many directions to detail.  There are portions about finance, banking, and the art world that are both high brow clich├ęs and yet still well done, at time humorous.  There are the perils of the road, bad motels, unpredictable food, and the varied reception that awaits them as they travel.

This is not a great book. It's good enough, and has a strong dose of realism about today's world. Depending on one's perspective and experience, it still can be one that is difficult to put down.  One could think that it is largely autobiographical.  It worked well here.


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