Wednesday, February 15, 2017
One of the things I am trying to do this year is read books within a year of their publication date. Amazon helped me do that on the low when this book became available for under three dollars. So...thanks Amazon for owning Goodreads and keeping a close watch on my reading tastes.
I loved this book. It starts off with the self entitled resentful voice of Charles Wang. The book then takes turns handing over the narrative to different people: Saina Wang, Grace Wang, Andrew Wang, Barbra Wang and even the car which belonged to Charles's first wife. We experience the same event, different ways through characters who are mostly likable. The event in question is the economic downfall of the Wangs. Charles Wang invested too much in what seemed like a good idea for his make up company and as a result, the Wangs are now without funds. Charles and Barbra travel across the country to pick Grace (from boarding school) and Andrew (from college) so that they can live with Saina, Charles's eldest daughter.
The most interesting character and my surprise favorite was Barbra. Before her parts of the story, she is seen as the vapid second wife of Charles Wang. No one, not even Charles, likes her very much. She saw an opportunity when his first wife died and did what she felt had to be done to take it. Through her marriage to Charles, she elevates her position and material well being but is still not happy. Barbra is mocked by her stepchildren and eventually ignored by her husband. This "Failure" however puts her through some very interesting changes. Her narrative doesn't make her all of a sudden more likable but learning her back story does flesh her out which I thought was a great way doing it.
Charles Wang is another character that surprised me. I was prepared to not like him throughout the whole book but there were moments in which I felt his desperation to hold on his life. This made me feel for empathetic towards him. Yes, he was a sexist, selfish and arrogant character but made the rest of him easier to take. He was still insufferable but at least I could go "Awww" every now and again.
The Wangs vs. The World feels like one of those books you could read in one sitting. It's not a book where a lot happens but enough to keep you going. I found myself stopping at certain points to stretch it out. It was interesting, funny and did a great job showing the contrast between first generation and second generation immigrants in America. I would definitely recommend this book to someone looking for new fiction.