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The Wangs v/s The World - Jade Chang

This book makes a grand appearance on my blog because of 3 main reasons:
  • It is a debut novel (I love debuts because I believe that ‘firsts’ are always special)
  • It doesn’t entirely fit in with the genre that I review (Asia yes, South Asia, No)
  • It’s been published by a legendary publication house i.e. Penguin which I have adored for a long time now (I was over the moon to receive a copy of this book to review)
The Wangs v/s The World is a family saga that has at its very pulse the Great American Dream. It beautifully narrates how a Chinese immigrant makes this dream a reality and how suddenly because of an economic catastrophe that dream is swiftly shattered. But don’t be disappointed as the story draws out rather skilfully the resilience of the human spirit and its ability to adapt.

Charles Wang our main protagonist is a rich businessman owning a successful cosmetics company that feeds the American appetite of make-up and flamboyance. The 2008 economic crisis brings him and his family fortunes to a thundering crash. To put it in a few words, he loses all his material wealth and he must now traverse the vast expanse of America from the West Coast to the East Coast at the mercy of an old car and his dysfunctional family.  

The characters are distinct and their personalities have been carefully thought out by the author. At no point did I feel I was being unnecessarily pulled into drama resulting from their personalities alone; rather as is the case with drama it usually results from a clash!

The book reminds us of the human desire to reclaim and rebuild. This is apparent not only through the characters’ coping mechanisms but also through the protagonist’s constant motivation to go back to his homeland and claim ancestral land (bear in mind that he has lost all his riches). Another brilliant aspect of this book for which the author needs a special mention is that the book brings to fore careers that are unconventional and often looked down upon by Asian (including South Asian) cultures because they don’t provide security via a steady income stream e.g. fashion, stand-up comedy. The manner in which this theme has been addressed is noteworthy.

Jade Chang’s writing style is unpretentious and full of humour. This is an engaging read and releases on 3rd November 2016!


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