The debut novel by Jade Chang, The Wangs vs. the World, is a combination of two very popular and fun genres: the immigrant story (classically, immigrant comes to America, makes good, then his/her children struggle to reconcile their pasts with their present) and the road trip story, for an enjoyable, if somewhat bumpy, ride.
Charles Wang, the father of the clan in America, came from China and made his fortune building a cosmetics empire. Then came the crash of 2008, and everything came falling down for him and his family: all the trappings of fortune were stripped away, his huge and fancy Bel Air home was being foreclosed, two of his children were in expensive private schools whose tuition he can no longer afford to pay, and as far as Charles was concerned, the bottom had dropped out and he was finished with America altogether. He had a promise of some family land he could (maybe) claim back in China and so, ready to give the old country another try, he decided to make sure all his children were in good shape in America before heading back to China for a new start.
Which all sounds much simpler than it turns out to be, because Charles’ children are spread across the country, and not exactly in good shape. His son is in school in New Mexico, and aspiring to be a stand-up comic. One of his daughters is in a boarding school where she’s been trying to establish herself as a “style blogger.” Together with his wife, they head across the country to the upstate New York home of his third daughter, who’s holing up there after an embarrassing rise and fall in the New York City art world. Naturally things go wrong all along the line, and this is where the humor of the book comes in. The characters start out pretty self-absorbed and selfish, but over the course of their long trip together, they come to new understandings of who they are, what their pasts mean and what their futures can be. And Charles finds himself having to choose between his future and keeping his family together, between the new world and the old.
If you like charming novels about somewhat dysfunctional families, and you’re interested in the classic rise and fall of new Americans, The Wangs vs. the World should be just the book for you. Come in and check it out.