The Wangs vs The World
A rags-to-riches-to-rags tale sets the stage for an intimate look into the complexity of family relationships – the unknown people our parents once were before they had us, the secret lives of our siblings, and the glue that holds us together even when we wish it didn’t. The Wangs vs. the World is set into motion by the actions, and inactions, of patriarch, Charles Wang. Born in China, Charles travelled to the United States as a young man with nothing but piss (both figuratively and quite literally) and a dream. Fueling a makeup industry, Charles quickly became a very wealthy man, but when his over-confident gamble on his own cosmetics line leads him to lose everything he, his wife, and three children own, everything falls apart.
The story follows the Wangs as they attempt to make sense of their losses and rebuild for their future. There’s Barbra the stepmother and the target of the children’s disdain.
The eldest child, Saina, the tortured artist, always the lover but never the loved, whose most recent misguided love interest has led her to escape Manhattan and seek refuge in the Catskills. This is where the family flees to once all of their earthly possessions are repossessed.
Then, there’s the middle child, Andrew, idealistic, peacemaker, and confined by rules and what should be. While college is often the place to find yourself, Andrew’s biggest lesson begins with his father’s bankruptcy.
The youngest Gracie, wild and free, who is haunted by the absence left by their mother, who died with Gracie was an infant. Like her older sister, Gracie has an eye for art, expressing it through her fashion blog. Her free spirit is tempered by typical high school angst.
Finally, there’s May Lee, Charles first wife and Saina, Andrew, and Gracie’s mother. Though she is but a memory to the Wangs, including Barbra, she shapes each of their lives.
Amidst the unfurling family dynamics and individual character’s lives, Chang weaves a story about choices, chances, and taking risks for our dreams and for the ones we love.
In the end, you’ll find yourself rooting for the Wangs, yelling at the characters as they make decisions that are sure to doom them yet seeing yourself in their choices, and perhaps even having insight into some of your own familial relationships.
FAVORITE QUOTE FROM THE WANGS VS THE WORLD
“The people of the world could be divided into two groups: those who used all of their chances, and those who stood still through opportunity after opportunity, waiting for a moment that would never be perfect” (p336).
PAIR IT WITH a gin and tonic with a twist. This classic drink can be fancied up or served plain and simple, a perfect match for the Wangs’ humble roots, their rise, and their inevitable fall.
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