Title: Family Trust
Author: Kathy Wang
Publisher: William Morrow
Date: October 30, 2018 (Expected)
Genre: Fiction / Contemporary
Format: Paperback (Advanced Reader’s Edition)
My Rating: 3 Stars
Get Your Own: HarperCollins| Amazon
Some of us are more equal than others….
Meet Stanley Huang: father, husband, ex-husband, man of unpredictable tastes and temper, aficionado of all-inclusive vacations and bargain luxury goods, newly diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. For years, Stanley has claimed that he’s worth a small fortune. But the time is now coming when the details of his estate will finally be revealed, and Stanley’s family is nervous.
For his son Fred, the inheritance Stanley has long alluded to would soothe the pain caused by years of professional disappointment. By now, the Harvard Business School graduate had expected to be a financial tech god – not a minor investor at a middling corporate firm, where he isn’t even allowed to fly business class.
Stanley’s daughter, Kate, is a middle manager with one of Silicon Valley’s most prestigious tech companies. She manages the capricious demands of her world-famous boss and the needs of her two young children all while supporting her would-be entrepreneur husband (just until his startup gets off the ground, which will surely be soon). But lately, Kate has been sensing something amiss; just because you say you have it all, it doesn’t mean that you actually do.
Stanley’s second wife, Mary Zhu, twenty-eight years his junior, has devoted herself to making her husband comfortable in every way—rubbing his feet, cooking his favorite dishes, massaging his ego. But lately, her commitment has waned; caring for a dying old man is far more difficult than she expected.
Linda Liang, Stanley’s first wife, knows her ex better than anyone. She worked hard for decades to ensure their financial security, and is determined to see her children get their due. Single for nearly a decade, she might finally be ready for some romantic companionship. But where does a seventy-two year old Chinese woman in California go to find an appropriate boyfriend?
As Stanley’s death approaches, the Huangs are faced with unexpected challenges that upend them and eventually lead them to discover what they most value. A compelling tale of cultural expectations, career ambitions and our relationships with the people who know us best, Family Trust skewers the ambition and desires that drive Silicon Valley and draws a sharply loving portrait of modern American family life.
I won an ARC of Family Trust in a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review.
This book is being marketed as a cross between Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan and The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney – and I’d say that’s pretty spot on. Family Trust is a contemporary family drama revolving around the Huangs, a Chinese-American family living in Silicon Valley, California. Stuck between two cultures that value and deify professional, familial, and material success (or at least the appearance of such), the members of the Huang family have worked hard to cement their places in the Silicon Valley community through fancy business degrees, professional titles, property ownership, and healthy stoke portfolios. But much of what they present to the world and to each other is a slight (or large) exaggeration of what is really happening below the surface.
I enjoyed this book. Like most family dramas, I didn’t love it but it was interesting enough to capture and keep my attention. For me, what set this book apart from other family dramas (like The Nest) were the complexities of merging the Chinese and Silicon Valley cultures together. On the surface these two cultures appear miles apart, but when you really get down to the core of what each culture values (wealth, prestige, title, etc.) the differences begin to break down. But just because the values are similar, doesn’t mean Asian Americans (like the Huangs) have it easy in America’s tech industry – racial prejudices abound around every corner making it difficult for the Huangs to feel completely at home in their own communities.
Kathy Wang did a great job of developing her characters, which is sometimes difficult in multi-perspective novels. Stanley, Linda, Fred, Kate, and Mary were all well-rounded and believe-able characters, but that’s not to say that they were all like-able. In fact, I found it difficult to like any of the characters very much, from their personal and professional choices to the ways in which they interacted with each other and the other people around them, the Huangs were generally disagreeable.
What I didn’t find particularly exciting about this book were the long discussions about finances and corporate life; apart from the fact that I didn’t understand most of the financial talk, I also found it to be quite boring (although maybe this just means I need to learn a thing or two about the financial world). I also wasn’t a fan of the some of the secondary characters; for example, Camilla was extremely flat. The inclusion of her in the novel as more than just a home-wrecker was unnecessary and caused some scenes with Kate to come off as fake.
Overall, I gave this book three stars. It’s not something I would pick up again but I did enjoy my time reading it. If you like contemporary dramas like The Nest and books featuring an Asian-American cast of characters you should give this book a shot!
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