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The Wangs vs. the World Hardcover – October 4, 2016
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An Amazon Best Book of October 2016: The Wangs vs the World is pure entertainment – filled with exuberant characters, comic predicaments and the ups and downs of every life. Charles Wang, a wildly successful businessman, has brought up his children in the lap of luxury. But in the prime of his life, and after one bad investment, his entire net worth is suddenly gone. Ever resilient and proud, Charles devises a scheme to recover his stature: He’ll return to China and reclaim the plot of land that decades ago was taken from his family. But first he has to tell his kids, take them out of college and boarding school and figure out a way to get there. A cross country adventure ensues – full of moments that will make you pine for the backseat, love your siblings and marvel at the road life takes. Read this book for its humor, for the compassion and energy that Jade Chang has infused in every scene, and the strings she pulls to expand your heart. --Al Woodworth, The Amazon Book Review
New York Times Editors’ Choice
PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction Finalist
Selected as A Best Book of 2016 by:
NPR • BuzzFeed • PopSugar • Refinery29 • Electric Literature • Self • Elle
"A fresh Little Miss Sunshine." — Sloane Crosley, in Vanity Fair
“Bright and funny…when the Wangs take the world, we all benefit.”—USA Today
“Richly entertaining . . . Chang’s smart and engaging novel remains defiantly cheerful. Perhaps this is because its ultimate subject, across a colorful span of geographies and cultural settings, is love.”—The Guardian
"Jade Chang is unendingly clever in her generous debut novel....As much as THE WANGS VS. THE WORLD is about Asian-American identity, it is also a sprawling family adventure compressed into a road trip novel. The result is a manic, consistently funny book of alternating perspectives as the Wangs make various cross-country stopovers in their 80s station wagon...[A] compassionate and bright-eyed novel." —New York Times Book Review (Editors' Choice)
“Sharply funny.”—New York Times
"Fresh, energetic, and completely hilarious, The Wangs vs. the World is my favorite debut of the year." — Jami Attenberg, author of Saint Mazie and The Middlesteins
"A moneyed Chinese-immigrant clan loses it all, then takes a healing, uproarious road trip across the United States." —Entertainment Weekly
"With mischievous, Dickensian glee, Chang’s prose power-drives the appealingly dysfunctional family, now a disgrace to the wet dream of capitalism, through their postfall paces . . . Chang’s confident, broad-stroke, and go-for-broke style makes her fresh twist on the American immigrant saga of the woebegone Wangs one of 2016’s must-reads . . . You will laugh your ass off while learning a thing or two about buying into, and then having to bail on, the American dream. But mostly, you’ll get to savor, thanks to a wildly innovative plot twist, the I Chang of this diabolical dramedy: how it’s love, not money, that really makes the world, and all the people in it, go round."—Elle
“It all comes crashing down for Charles Wang, so he and his family hit the road. This endearing debut is more fun than you’d expect from a trip with this backdrop.”—Marie Claire
“On the brink of financial ruin, Charles Wang has a plan to start over in his homeland of China. But first, he has to reunite the fam via a madcap, cross-country road trip from their palatial Bel Air digs.”—Cosmopolitan
"a highly entertaining debut novel . . . A meditation on what it means to be an immigrant in America, The Wangs vs. the World shows the often surprising ways hardship can bring a dysfunctional family closer together." —BuzzFeed
"[Chang's] book is unrelentingly fun, but it's also raw and profane — a story of fierce pride, fierce anger, and even fiercer love....The Wangs vs. the World drives home the fact that there is no one immigrant experience — just humanity in all its glorious, sloppy complexity, doing its best to survive and thrive despite the whims of society and circumstance. With plenty of laughs, both bitter and sweet, along the way."—NPR.org
"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." —Estelle Tang on Elle.com
"Chang is a former journalist, but her debut novel has already been praised by the wonderful Jami Attenberg, so you know it's going to be good. The book deals with the trials and triumphs of a Chinese-American immigrant family who made it big and then lost it all. and then decided to take a road trip. It's poignant, hilarious, and a truly noteworthy debut." —Nylon.com
"Chang proves a family doesn't need to be dysfunctional to be interesting, that genuine and fervent love among family members will make you root for their successes even more. I couldn't get enough of the Wangs. The book is done but I miss them like old friends."—BuzzFeed
"The Wangs had it all: a cosmetics empire and a huge fortune, but the financial crisis ruined all that. Now Charles Wang is taking his family on a road trip across America so that he can get his children safely stowed away and start his life anew in China. The Wangs vs. the World is a funny and touching novel about what it means to belong in America." —PopSugar
“Jade Chang’s firecracker of a debut knowingly and refreshingly breaks every unwritten rule of the Asian-American family saga, making for a blistering, high-energy read that’s worthy of its pre-publication hype.”—Newsday
"Meet the Wangs: a wealthy, Chinese-American family who lose everything in the 2008 financial crisis. In Chang’s big-hearted, hilarious debut, they leave their foreclosed Bel Air home and head out on a cross-country road trip in a desperate attempt to start over and save face."—PureWow
"A funny and heartwarming debut novel by writer Jade Chang, The Wangs vs. the World tells the story of one immigrant family — the Wangs — who achieved the ultimate American dream, only to have it snatched away from them entirely by the financial crisis. Gone with their dreams is also their family unity, and all Charles Wang—the head of this fractured family — wants to do is return to China and begin anew. But first he must take an epic road trip across the United States, from California to New York, that will force him to not only look at America, but at his American dreams (and family) in a new (and even better) light."—Bustle
"Art, stand-up comedy, beauty, style blogs and financial ruin come together in a road trip from Bel-Air to upstate New York. Running away has never been so entertaining."—Fort Worth Star Telegram
"I love The Wangs vs The World so, so much. If you're looking for something that you won't be able to put down, definitely pick this one up...it might be my favorite debut of the year. It just kind of rings all the bells for me: it's smart, the writing is great, the story is really interesting, the characters are funny, it doesn't take itself too seriously but it's about a serious thing. I just really, really loved it."—Rebecca Schinsky, BookRiot
“A funny, feeling novel about an immigrant family (and its patriarch) who must choose between old and new, a clean slate and solidarity.”—Brooklyn Magazine
“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."—Charles Yu, author of Sorry Please Thank You and How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe
"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."—J. Ryan Stradal, author of Kitchens of the Great Midwest
"After losing his mega-fortune earned from a cosmetics empire, Charles Wang uproots his wife and his two California-born-and-raised kids from their Bel Air mansion. The Wangs drive across the country to move in with the oldest daughter of the clan, escaping a bad Manhattan breakup in a remote Catskills house. While the destination is intriguing, it’s the road trip antics that will keep you laughing as you ride the rails with this hilarious debut novel."—A.M. New York
"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." - Rory Aronsky, BookBrowse.com
"This debut novel is so funny and so wise and so sad about the collapse of the American Dream from the vantage point of a wealthy Chinese-American family, who expected and got everything they wanted -- until they didn't. Plus it's a hell of a road trip novel, as the Wangs, shellshocked by bankruptcy, have to find their way back to some inner understanding of one another. I adored this book and look forward to reading it again and to Chang's next fiction adventures."—Sarah Weinman, TheCrimeLady
“The Wangs vs. the World is one of the most thrilling, skilfully wrought novels I've read in ages....The Wangs were so real to me that I keep expecting them to turn up at my door. I'll be ready with my bags if they do.”—Emma Jane Unsworth, author of Animals
"In Chang’s sparkling debut novel, a family whose fortune has been lost in the 2008 financial crisis takes a cross-country road trip in an effort to regroup . . . Chang’s charming and quirky characters and comic observations make the novel a jaunty joy ride to remember."—STARRED, Publishers Weekly
“A wealthy Chinese immigrant family finds their fortunes dashed and their future in question—with surprisingly hilarious results—in this rollicking debut novel.”—BookPage
“A Chinese-American family tumbles from riches to rags in Chang's jam-packed, high-energy debut . . . 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”—Kirkus Reviews
“Charming . . . Fans of sweeping family sagas will be rewarded.”—Library Journal
"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." —Booklist
One of Entertainment Weekly's Most Anticipated Titles of 2016
A BuzzFeed Incredible Book for Fall
An Elle.com Must-Read Book for Fall
A Bustle Book for Your Fall TBR list
A Hollywood Reporter Most Buzzed About Book for Fall
A PopSugar Best Book for Fall
A The Millions Most Anticipated Book
A Nylon Amazing Book for Fall
A The Frisky Book to Read for Fall
A Fall 2016 Barnes & Noble Discover Pick
An October Indie Next Pick
A Publishers Lunch Fall 16 Buzz Book
An iBooks Most Anticipated Book for Fall
A BookRiot Book to Read This Fall
One of Library Journal’s “Five Big Debuts” for Fall 16
A BookPage "Woman to Watch" for 2016
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Top Customer Reviews
He has three children from his first wife, who died eight weeks after the birth of their last child. The kids have never known deprivation, which is perhaps why all of them feel free to pursue the arts—and use their money to do so. Saina is an artist whose fourth show not just bombed but had people protesting in the streets. At the same time her career is in shambles, her fiancé leaves her for his pregnant girlfriend, the daughter of a wealthy mattress magnet. Saina sells her Manhattan loft at a huge loss and retreats to a farmhouse in upstate New York, thinking she’ll farm organic vegetables—except she has no idea how. But the house just happens to have room for her entire family.
Charles and Barbra, the children’s stepmother, begin in LA. The plan is to drive across country to Saina’s with a few stops along the way. (And then Charles thinks he’ll go to China and reclaim family land stolen by the Communists.) The first stop is to pick up his 16-year-old daughter Grace, who he shipped off to boarding school two years earlier when she fell in love with a boy. Grace is a typical teenager, obsessed with her fashion blog, Style & Grace.
The next stop is Arizona State University, where his 21-year-old son Andrew goes to school. Andrew isn’t serious about this studies because he wants to be a stand-up comedian. We see Andrew perform. The first few times we know the audience hates him, but even the time when he allegedly did well, I found reading his routine cringe-worthy. Obviously stand-up is a very different medium than novel writing, but it was painful, so I had to speed read through it.
The book wasn’t as funny as I expected it to be by the description, but I did think the writing was wonderful, and it was an intriguing perspective on that time in our nation’s history told through the story of immigrants Charles and Barbra and three adults or almost-adults who grew up here and have never wanted for anything—they have no idea how to budget, etc. because they never had to.
This is a fun, compelling read.
Chang tells us the story of a family whose financial security was ruined by the crash of 2008. They were a wealthy California family living the good life, never questioning the privileges which they enjoyed. Through a series of very bad decisions made by the patriarch of the family, Charles Wang, the family lost everything. Their palatial home, their cars, their bank accounts, the son's college career - all gone in the virtual blink of an eye.
It could be the story of any one of many families who suffered through that precarious period of the world's financial systems and came out the other side much poorer and perhaps wiser than they went in. But this is a very particular story of a particular family.
It is a family headed by immigrants. Charles and Barbra Wang are originally from Taiwan, where their own families of origin had been pushed by the Japanese or the Chinese Communists. Charles' parents had followed Chiang Kai-shek and he was born there. He had never set foot into China.
As a young man, Charles left his parents and migrated to America. He fell in love with a country which welcomed entrepreneurs and made it possible for them to make their fortunes. He proved adept in doing just that, but he never saw his parents alive again.
Not only did Charles make his fortune, he also married a beautiful woman, May Lee (Mei Li), a model. They had three children, two girls and a boy. Charles seemed to be living a charmed life. But just when everything seemed perfect, tragedy struck.
When the youngest child, Grace, was only two months old, her mother was killed in a helicopter crash at the Grand Canyon.
Back in Taiwan, Barbra, who had longed to marry Charles, heard about May Lee's death and immediately made plans to emigrate. Her plans came to fruition; she made it to California and married Charles.
At the time that we meet the Wangs, it is sixteen years later. The older daughter, Saina, has moved on to New York and had a successful few years as an artist but recently has suffered a setback when one of her shows was widely panned. The middle child, Andrew, who wants to be a stand-up comedian, is attending Arizona State. Grace, the youngest, is in high school and is the purveyor of a popular blog about fashion.
Once it is clear that the family is bankrupt, Charles' first thought is to get all his family back together again and so he piles his wife and younger daughter and all their remaining belongings into an old car he had previously given to their servant (she loans it to them for the trip) and they head out on a road trip to pick up Andrew in Phoenix and then go on to Helios, New York, to the farmhouse where Saina is now living. His second thought is to get back to China and claim his family's ancestral lands, lands that he has never seen.
We travel with the Wangs on that chaotic road trip as they learn about the country and about themselves. Somewhere crossing Texas, Charles meditates on this country which he once loved, the country which he feels has betrayed him.
America was a great deceptor. Land of Opportunity. Golden Mountain. Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. But inside those pretty words, between the pretty coasts, was this: Miles and miles of narrow-minded know-nothings who wanted no more out of life than an excuse to cock their AK-47s and take arms against a sea of troubles. A Great Wall? Ha! This country could never build itself anything as epic as that. America wanted to think of itself as a creator, but all it could do was destroy - fortunes, families, lives. Even the railroads needed the Chinese to come and build them.
I suspect he speaks for many disillusioned immigrants in those thoughts.
I found The Wangs vs. the World to be a very entertaining, sometimes funny, sometimes poignant, and in many ways thought-provoking read. It's a book that brings a personal perspective to the catastrophic events of the 2008 financial crash. It is a saga that explores just what it is to be a part of a family and what it is to be a part of a country, a culture. As I said in the beginning, I think Jade Chang has a future as a writer.