Reviews of The Family Chao by Lan Chang

The Family Chao

A Novel

by Lan Samantha Chang

The Family Chao by Lan Samantha Chang X
The Family Chao by Lan Samantha Chang
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  • First Published:
    Feb 2022, 320 pages

    Paperback:
    Aug 30, 2022, 320 pages

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About this Book

Book Summary

An acclaimed storyteller returns with "a gorgeous and gripping literary mystery" that explores "family, betrayal, passion, race, culture and the American Dream" (Jean Kwok).

The residents of Haven, Wisconsin, have dined on the Fine Chao Restaurant's delicious Americanized Chinese food for thirty-five years, happy to ignore any unsavory whispers about the family owners. But when brash, charismatic, and tyrannical patriarch Leo Chao is found dead―presumed murdered―his sons discover that they've drawn the exacting gaze of the entire town.

The ensuing trial brings to light potential motives for all three brothers: Dagou, the restaurant's reckless head chef; Ming, financially successful but personally tortured; and the youngest, gentle but lost college student James. Brimming with heartbreak, comedy, and suspense, The Family Chao offers a kaleidoscopic, highly entertaining portrait of a Chinese American family grappling with the dark undercurrents of a seemingly pleasant small town.

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

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What an amazing reimagining of The Brothers Karamazov! Had Lan Samantha Chang crafted a modern-day version of this all-time favorite classic, the novel would have been a success. But she goes further, exploring the passions and rivalries of an "outsider" family in pursuit of the American Dream (Jill S). It's been a long time since I stayed up late, unwilling to put down a book that has me in its thrall. The Family Chao is one of those books. It's a great book club pick. There's a lot to talk about (Irene H)...continued

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(Reviewed by BookBrowse First Impression Reviewers).

Media Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
As with Dostoevsky's original, the story culminates in a trial that becomes a stage for broader debates over obligation, morality, and family. But Chang is excellent at exploring this at a more intimate level as well. A later plot twist deepens the tension and concludes a story that smartly offers only gray areas in response to society's demands for simplicity and assurance. A disruptive, sardonic take on the assimilation story.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
[A]n ingenious and cunning reboot of Dostoyevsky's The Brothers Karamazov...harrowing and humorous... In this timely, trenchant, and thoroughly entertaining book, an immigrant family's dreams are paid for in blood. For Chang, this marks a triumphant return.

Author Blurb Jess Walter, author of The Cold Millions
At once a brilliant reimagining of Dostoevsky and a wholly original and gripping story about the passions, rivalries, and searing pressures that roil a singular immigrant family.

Author Blurb John Irving, author of Avenue of Mysteries
A Dickensian drama of family conflicts and intrigues; an insightful comedy of the American immigrant experience, and of a small town's inner workings. Chang's creation of characters through dialogue is worthy of a great playwright.

Author Blurb Viet Thanh Nguyen, author of The Committed
Family drama, murder mystery, love story, The Family Chao is an oftentimes funny and sometimes sad portrait of a Chinese American family who runs that most ubiquitous of institutions: the Chinese restaurant. With nuance and slyness, wit and empathy, Chang turns the desires and deceits of one unhappy family into a moving and compelling saga of that classic American illness: ambition.

Reader Reviews

Jeanne, Alleghany County, NC

Not Your Average Chinese Restaurant
"The Chinese American Dream" is not necessarily the same as another immigrant's "Dream" or an American's "American Dream." (Olivia Murphy) Essentially, The Family Chao depicts a Chinese-American family's pursuit of their "Dreams" in a small ...   Read More
Susan B. (Hahira, GA)

The Family Chao
Families are always complicated but even more so for second generation siblings trying to navigate two worlds. Respect for old world traditions vs new world ideology often are cause for conflicts which drive us away but inevitably draw/suck us ...   Read More
Julie Z. (Oak Park, IL)

The Family Chao
Years ago, an immigrant family from China moved to small town Haven, WI. There they have operated Fine Chao, a Chinese restaurant, for over thirty years. The father, Leo, is a tyrant to both his wife and his three sons. With nods to The Brothers ...   Read More
Shelley S. (Great Neck, NY)

A chilling family drama that will pull you in.
After framing the lives of the three brothers and their parents in the first 70 or so pages, the book becomes a mystery with a possible patricide, obsessive, unrequited and first loves and ultimately a murder trial. Standing on its own the book ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

The Brothers Karamazov

The Brothers Karamazov book coverThe Family Chao by Lan Samantha Chang is a modern reimagining of the novel The Brothers Karamazov (1879) by Russian author Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821-1881). The plot of Dostoevsky's book centers around a family of three brothers — Dmitri, Ivan and Alexei (aka Alyosha) — and the murder of their father, Fyodor Karamazov. As Dmitri and his father have been in conflict over Dmitri's inheritance and their mutual attraction to the same woman, he becomes the prime suspect in the crime, and the end of the novel features his trial.

Each of the brothers represents an archetype: Dmitri is a hedonist ruled by emotion; Ivan is an intellectual; and Alexei is a deeply pious Christian, committed to living an ascetic lifestyle in a monastery. ...

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