A Chinese-American family tumbles from riches to rags in Chang’s jam-packed, high-energy debut.
The financial crisis of the last decade is turning out to be a gold mine for American writers, one which includes a rich comic vein. Here, an immigrant businessman named Charles Wang has lost his cosmetics empire, his house, and his cars. His son (a wannabe stand-up comic) will have to leave college and his daughter (a precocious fashion blogger) must withdraw from private school. Once he fires their live-in maid, he takes back the car he gave her and drives the family across the country to live with his oldest daughter (a disgraced conceptual artist) in the Catskills. Like many Chinese families, the Wangs lost their ancestral land in the communist takeover, but Charles is determined to get it back. His explanation: “What if all the Persian kids in Beverly Hills torched their Ferraris and smashed their bottles of Dior Homme before joining the Taliban? What if they marched through the city and snatched up properties, pulling you onto the street and calling you a godless capitalist pig, kicking you with feet still clad in the tasseled Prada loafers they couldn’t bear to relinquish? Wasn’t your house still rightfully yours? Wouldn’t you want it back after they were inevitably vanquished by some makeshift Arizona militia?” Switching among the points of view of all the Wangs and several supporting players, racing back and forth in time and across the country and the world, dropping into Chinese, stuffing in stand-up routines and savvy details on finance, journalism, the beauty industry, and the art world, this debut novelist holds nothing back.
Head-spinning fun with many fine moments—but the emotional aspects of the book are weakened by the barrage effect.