By Sarah Hoenicke for the Columbia Journal
“Sometimes just living your life in a way that is completely unapologetic is a rebellion.”
Jade Chang’s debut novel, The Wangs vs. the World, is an extraordinarily balanced first book. Often, debuts lack perfect continuity—containing lapses into portions of the story that the author needed to know, but the reader did not. In this case, there are no lulls or glimpses of the process that led to the finished book. There are only the characters—the individual and complex members of the Wang family.
This is an immigrant novel in that the Wangs’ patriarch, Charles, has immigrated to the United States and spends much of the novel comparing the two cultures he’s known, but his perspective hardly consumes the narrative. We hear from Charles’s three children—artistic and together Saina; Andrew, an aspiring comedian; and Charles’s youngest, Grace, an avid fashion-blogger. These three and Charles make up the bulk of the book, but they’re given a lively supporting cast—even allowing the car they travel in some airtime.
Charles made his stateside fortune in cosmetics, but when he makes a bad deal and his prosperity abruptly collapses, he becomes obsessed with reclaiming family lands in China. Before he can do so, he must pick up his scattered family members and move them to Saina’s home in New York—this means a cross-country car trip with many unforeseen calamities and conflicts bubbling up along the way.
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