Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
Publisher: Anchor Books
Published: May 2014
Genre: contemporary, women’s fiction
When New Yorker Rachel Chu agrees on a summer in Singapore to visit her boyfriend’s “traditional” Chinese family, she expects the trip to be relaxing, if a little dull. She has no idea…
Nick’s childhood home is a palace. He grew up riding in more private planes than cars. He and Rachel will be attending the wedding of the year. Oh, and Nick just happens to be one of Asia’s most eligible bachelors — and his formidable mother isn’t so sure Rachel is the right one for him.
Rachel is under the impression she’s jetting off to Singapore with her boyfriend for the summer — something fun between semesters of professor life. Little does she know, his family is wildly, outrageously, crazy rich, and they have their own set of standards for this mystery girl he’s bringing home.
I loved this. If you’re a fan of Jane Austen’s satirical novels, imagine her sassy, snarky, sarcastic commentary in a modern setting and you have Kevin Kwan. The extreme detail put into the characters’ seemingly superficial lives was hilarious. Everyone played a role in this novel, from Nick’s mother, to his cousins, to Rachel’s BFF from college, to passersby in Singapore. Toss in the [admittedly very little] research I did on Singapore lifestyle and culture, and holy crap this book [seems to] nails it.
I mean, come on. Look at this quote. (From the mind of a guy I think is Nick’s cousin by marriage.)
“But then his parents were always so selfish. Sure, they raised him and paid for his education and bought him his first apartment, but they failed him when it came to what was truly important — they didn’t know how to flaunt their wealth properly.”
These people. My goodness. It was brilliant.
Among all of this extravagance are three down-to-earth characters: Astrid, Nick, and Rachel. Astrid is Nick’s cousin, and she lives the high life as well — but she knows enough about heartache, budget cuts, and experience-over-materials that you can’t help but like her frank and honest character. Nick is one of those “I’m wealthy but I don’t flaunt it” types, living in a small apartment in NYC and living paycheck to paycheck rather than dipping into an account overflowing with decades of family coin. You’d think he’d be the spoiled type, but he wants nothing to do with the family money despite wanting to please his mother and father. And finally, Rachel. Our normal, totally average, super funny, head-on-her-shoulders Rachel, who is just trying to wrap her brain around all the crazy superficial things going on around her and Nick on this trip. You can’t not love her. She’s such a refreshing voice.
In the end, though, even the most surface-level characters had depth to their motivations and desires. For example, Nick’s mother claims she’s not happy her son never told her about his dirt poor, possibly-a-gold-digger girlfriend and that’s the only reason. But as the story progresses, it digs deeper: she’s concerned the girlfriend’s background, her family ties, honor, values, tradition. She mentions money as an excuse to not like Rachel, but so much of this novel has threads of Asian family expectations and values. It’s an excellent cultural read.
I should’ve read this book sooner — like, the day it published. I can’t wait for the film!
This qualifies as book 1 of 16 in my TBR challenge.