Jade Chang’s novel, Wangs vs. the World is highly entertaining. It is a portrait of a family complete with all of their similarities and their differences. She shows them as they come together and also when they fall apart. The novel is a very quick read. Chang’s prose is energetic and flows flawlessly. She peppers in thoughts about immigration and politics but it is not heavy-handed and fits within the confines of the novel well. The thoughts propel the story to its conclusion.
Charles Wang has lost everything. He once had everything–fancy cars, a lucrative business, many factories, enough money to be comfortable and then some. He has three children, Grace, Andrew and Saina. He’s married to his second wife, Barbra. His first wife was killed in an accident six months after his youngest daughter, Grace, was born.
Charles has lost the house they live in, his business, all of the money and the savings–every last dollar. He made some questionable decisions and things didn’t work out. There is no money to pay Grace’s tuition at a private high school. There is no money to pay Andrew’s tuition at Arizona State University. The only thing he has is his first wife’s car that he once sold to their nanny and now she has given it back to him because she doesn’t drive it often and he obviously needs it. He calls the kids and plans to pick them up on their way to live with the oldest daughter, Saina, in New York.
Saina is an artist of her own right living in a farmhouse in upstate New York after things with her fiancé go south and she sells her New York City apartment to hide out in a small town and get her thoughts together. She’s struggling with her art and has stopped producing. She’s the only one of the Wangs that is old enough to have been granted a trust fund, as well as money of her own.
Charles is convinced that he can claim his family’s ancestral land in China and has made plans to make his last efforts those that will get his family back where they belong. A lot of time has passed since Charles or his family has been in China. Claiming the land will prove to be more difficult than he had imagined.
Along the way, the family falls further apart, but they eventually find their way back to each other. They all have their independent lives and are struggling with what it means to be together. They all get along well, but they don’t realize what it means to rely on each other until they are all in one place.
Part-time fiction writer, Alisha Churbe lives in Portland, Oregon. In the rare instances when you can pry her away from books, Alisha can be found travelling in foreign countries, cooking, or hiking with her husband Michael and dog Euro.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.