Title: The Wangs vs. the World
Author: Jade Chang
Summary: Charles Wang—a brash, lovable businessman who built a cosmetics empire and made a fortune—has just lost everything in the financial crisis. So he rounds up two of his children from schools that he can no longer afford and packs them into the only car that wasn’t repossessed. Together with their wealth-addicted stepmother, Barbra, they head on a cross-country journey from their foreclosed Bel-Air home to the Upstate New York retreat of the eldest Wang daughter, Saina, and embark on a trip that brings them together in a way money never could.
The Wangs vs. the World is a gorgeously written literary novel focusing on family, self-expression, and individual truth. It pulled me in with its brightly colored cover and kept me engaged for two-hour plus reading binges. I’m not sure that I knew exactly what the novel was supposed to be “about,” but author Jade Chang very quickly got me to care deeply about the Wang family and each of their individual journeys throughout the book.
As the Wangs make their way across the US, the narrative weaves between the present and the past. We explore patriarch Charles’s journey from Taiwanese immigrant to cosmetics conglomerate to destitute business-owner. We follow eldest child Saina’s romantic relationships and artistic backstory, middle child Andrew’s attempts to become a stand-up comic and fall in love, and youngest Grace’s journey to fully realizing her parents.
This didn’t become a four- or five-star read for me, but I’d still heartily recommend it. There are very few prose-heavy, character-driven novels I’d ever want to re-read, but The Wangs vs. the World is one of them. Even though I know each of the Wangs’ stories won’t change, I still want to revisit them down the line—even if it’s just for a quick hello.
Note: a character talks extensively on how she might commit suicide that bordered on over-the-top.