Just the food descriptions alone made me want to hightail to Asia…
When Singaporean Chinese “blue blood” Nick takes his American Chinese girlfriend Rachel home, his family is concerned that, yes, she might be a gold-digger, but their suspicions are heightened by the fact that she was – to their horror -an (ABC) born in mainland China, to a single mother. Through undetected contacts beginning in New York and traveling through the grapevine to friends and family in Singapore, word gets out that Nick Young is bringing back a girl. Nick’s family–and in particular his mother–immediately prepare themselves to defend the family honor against this presumed gold-digger. Rachel is thrown in a world where the first thing people ask you is who is your family and what do they own. Sprinkled between Nick and Rachel visit are various glimpse into the lives of some of the Chinese elite and how their wealth motivated and in some instances destroys their lives.
The class and racial prejudices portrayed in this book are so shocking. I mean stopping someone from staying at your hotel because they are Asian is quite appalling. Imagine my joy (read; I did a -serve you right- chuckle) when said Asian guests bought the hotel and proceed to oust rude employee. With western eyes these prejudices might seem common place but when it goes into the more intricate realm of class and who could marry who based on the magnitude of wealth and whether that wealth was acquired through old money, I mean, that’s where I was truly schooled. The book shows how those prejudices are challenged as mainland Chinese grow richer and more influential, and the author sympathetically portrays both sides. Kwan satirized the crazy rich Asian world and at moments one is inclined to think that it is all make- believe because of the extravagance. I found it kinda odd though that in the year of dating Nick Rachel was so oblivious to actually who he was was, but then, this is fiction and romance and sme things should be mystifying to fut in the genre i suppose. Through colorful descriptions, you get a sense of the vibrancy of the flavours and luxury of the world into which Nick introduces Rachel. The frequent use of cultural phrases and slang (note to readers: there are several instances of strong language and crudities throughout), together with humorously depicted scenes of Singaporean and Chinese family mannerisms, also help in painting the scene. By the end of it all, I’m left open-mouthed at the reality that yes, there really must be crazy, rich Asians out.
At the beginning I had a hard time following the different names and who belonged to which family and who is the cousin of who and so on. a little hint– the family tree at the start of the book—you should use it. If you can, try running your hands over the names in the family tree as they are mentioned in the book. otherwise you might become confused as Kwan style of writing features different characters POV in most chapters.
Though the writing is fast-past paced, it can become dizzying for a while as the concept is so new. At times i found myself as confounded as Rachel as trying to keep up had me literally shaking the fuzz from my brain– wait, which family were we talking about again.