The Wangs vs. the World

I clearly missed something with this book because I found nothing funny about this “hilarious” and “outrageously funny” novel.  In fact, if I didn’t have to read this for a book club I was hosting, I would have stopped at around 15%.  But I soldiered on.  And in the end, while I didn’t hate this book as much as I thought I would, I didn’t particularly like it and found myself confused by all the great ratings.

From Goodreads:  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.

This is a book in which the concept and writing were both great but I just did not enjoy it.  The main character, Charles, is described as lovable.  I HATED this man.  There was nothing I liked about him at all and I didn’t find him funny.  I didn’t feel bad for him and found myself wondering if/why we were supposed to be rooting for him.  His three kids were just as unlikable and I wasn’t in the mood to hear rich people whining about their lives.  The only decent one among them was Andrew but I still didn’t love him as a character.  Don’t get me wrong, there are many books I like, even love, that have unlikable characters. I don’t think you need to identify with or like a character to like a book.  I just could not relate, empathize, or enjoy these characters and it made this book hard to read.

The most frustrating thing about this book is that Chang has some wonderful things to say about immigration, ethnicity, and socio-economics in the United States.  This book turns the idea of who we think of us when we hear the word immigrant upside down and explores the concept of wealth in a way that could have been interesting and thought provoking. Instead, we get a boring story where nothing really happens with characters that no one cares about.  Chang is a good writer and is especially good with dialogue so it’s a shame that this book fell flat for me. Did I chuckle a few times? Sure. Would I call this book hilarious? No. I would read another of her books based on the writing alone but didn’t like this one.

A boring plot mixed with unlikable characters was a bad combination for me.  I don’t begrudge any who liked this book but I had a tough time with it.  Sometimes this happens and all you can do is hope the next book you read is better.

Favorite Quote: “Communists had it all wrong. It wasn’t the rich who were imprisoned by their possessions, it was the poor.”

Author: Jade Chang

Published:  October 4th, 2016

Rating: 2 Stars   

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