Summary and book reviews of The Wangs vs. the World by Jade Chang

The Wangs vs. the World

by Jade Chang

The Wangs vs. the World by Jade Chang
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    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Oct 2016, 368 pages
    Paperback:
    Jun 2017, 368 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Rory L. Aronsky

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About this Book

Book Summary

A hilarious debut novel about a wealthy but fractured Chinese immigrant family that had it all, only to lose every last cent - and about the road trip they take across America that binds them back together.

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. 

Outrageously funny and full of charm, The Wangs vs. the World is an entirely fresh look at what it means to belong in America - and how going from glorious riches to (still name-brand) rags brings one family together in a way money never could.  

Bel-Air, CA

Charles Wang was mad at America.

Actually, Charles Wang was mad at history.

If the death-bent Japanese had never invaded China, if a million - a billion - misguided students and serfs had never idolized a balding academic who parroted Russian madmen and couldn't pay for his promises, then Charles wouldn't be standing here, staring out the window of his beloved Bel-Air home, holding an aspirin in his hand, waiting for those calculating assholes from the bank - the bank that had once gotten down on its Italianate-marble knees and kissed his ass - to come over and repossess his life.

Without history, he wouldn't be here at all.

He'd be there, living out his unseen birthright on his family's ancestral acres, a pampered prince in silk robes, writing naughty, brilliant poems, teasing servant girls, collecting tithes from his peasants, and making them thankful by leaving their tattered households with just enough grain to squeeze out more hungry babies.

...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

1. Why is Charles Wang mad at America and mad at history? What does the novel suggest or reveal about "the American Dream"? What does Charles have to say about the American Dream and whom it belongs to?

2. What does Charles hope to recover? Is his plan reasonable—or successful? What do his children and his wife think of his plan?

3. Why did Saina want to be an artist as a young girl? What does she believe the purpose of art should be? What was Saina taught about the choice between art and marriage or motherhood, and what does she come to think of this teaching as an adult?

4. When Andrew turns to comedy, what does he discover as one of the true joys of kind of performance?

5. Explore the theme of ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

In just one novel, with the Wangs barreling down I-10 East to wherever life begins again for them, Chang has established a delightful, lasting relationship with readers. Wherever she goes next will be worth following.   (Reviewed by Rory L. Aronsky).

Full Review Members Only (689 words).

Media Reviews

Entertainment Weekly

A moneyed Chinese-immigrant clan loses it all, then takes a healing, uproarious road trip across the United States.

Elle.com

One of the best debut novels of 2016, this warmhearted, wide-ranging novel tells the wholly modern story of the Wang family: Father Charles has had his fortune decimated by the financial crisis, so he wants to corral his family, return to China, and start all over. But first, everyone - Charles, his wife, and their three children - has to sort out the tangles of their lives.

Booklist

Readers with a taste for outsize family dysfunction, à la Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney's The Nest (2016) and Emma Straub's The Vacationers (2014), will whip through this one with smiles on their faces.

Library Journal

Charming…Fans of sweeping family sagas will be rewarded.

Kirkus Reviews

[T]his debut novelist holds nothing back. Head-spinning fun.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Chang's charming and quirky characters and comic observations make the novel a jaunty joy ride to remember.

Author Blurb Jami Attenberg, author of Saint Mazie and The Middlesteins
Fresh, energetic, and completely hilarious, The Wangs vs. The World is my favorite debut of the year.

Author Blurb Charles Yu, author of Sorry Please Thank You and How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe
Funny, brash, honest, full of wit and heart and smarts. This is a novel I wish I could write, have been dying to read, and hope everyone else reads, too.

Author Blurb J. Ryan Stradal, author of Kitchens of the Great Midwest
Jade Chang's debut novel is a heartbreaking, hilarious, and honest American epic: a road trip that's an ultimate escape from our parents' American dream, toward an unknown destination that's both more vulnerable and more hopeful.

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Beyond the Book

Brother, Can You Spare a Few Books?

The Great Recession, in 2008, was the vicious charley horse that followed the extreme chest pains of the financial crisis in 2007. During that period, the $8 trillion housing bubble burst, and the stock market dropped precariously, taking down consumer spending, driving up the unemployment rate (from 5% in December 2007, to 9.5% in June 2009 and finally 10% in October 2009), dropping home prices 30 percent, and causing extraordinary strife in households across the nation. Family incomes plummeted, poverty rose, and people lost health insurance.

In the years since this happened, we've come to the point where we can look at the recession somewhat detached. Exactly what happened? Exactly how did it affect people throughout the United ...

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