The Wangs vs The World by Jade Chang
Spoilers throughout the post
First of all, I want to say that I can relate to this book. A brief synopsis of the book: a Chinese-American family goes bankrupt and the dad goes around collecting his children so he can go back to China to reclaim the family land stolen by the Communists. My family is Taiwanese and we also have 3 children; during the entire book I worry about what if the same thing happened to us? Would we have enough money to go back to Taiwan? Will we have anywhere to go back to?
Each chapter of the book is from the point of view of a different character. In the Wang family there is Charles, Barbra, Saina, Andrew, and Grace.
The chapters are each numbered with Chinese characters instead of numerals. Also there's some conversations in Chinese that are in pin yin so you might need to get someone to help you translate if you don't know Mandarin.
Charles Wang – Chinese name Wang Da Qian. Family fled to Taiwan away from the Communists when he was young. He went to school at National Taiwan Universitu. Before senior year, his parents sent him to America with “a list of fertilizer manufacturers” to help earn the family fortune back. Instead, he got into the cosmetics industry and grew big. He married his first wife May Lee who was a model. They had a house in Bel-Air. May Lee died getting onto a helicopter to view the Grand Canyon in order to rekindle their marriage after the third child was born. After the death of his first wife, Charles married Barbra who he knew back in Taiwan.
Barbra – Chinese name Hu Yue Ling. Full Taiwanese, her family worked in the University where she met Charles. She always had a crush on him. One summer she decided to work on her appearance and lose some weight but when school started back up, Charles had already left for America. After awhile, one of her classmates heard from Charles that he was going to be marrying a model. When she had heard about May Lee’s death, she took all of her parents’ savings and flew to America to find Charles.
Saina – The oldest child and daughter lives in Helios, New York by herself. She lived in Manhattan for a while as an artist until she had a failed show and her then fiancé, Grayson, cheated on her and got another girl pregnant. Saina moved to Helios as a personal exile from society and also away from everything that reminded her of Grayson. But he came looking for her saying that the other girl lost the baby and Saina was the only one for him. After being together for awhile, his son was born. She found out that Grayson had lied to her and he went back to his baby-mama. Besides Grayson, Saina was dating Leo – a local – who took her back after Grayson left.
Andrew – The second child and oldest son. Goes to school at Azusa Pacific University and wants to be a comedian. He believes in waiting to find love before having sex. He has his car repossessed the day everything happened. As Charles goes around picking up the children, they stop in New Orleans and he meets the thirty-five year old Dorrie who not only gets to him to have sex but also to stay in Louisiana with her instead of going to New York with his family to get Saina. After a few days of being with Dorrie he realizes that they don’t love each other (blinded by the sex) and he leaves her behind. Andrew goes around the state trying to figure out what to do and finally performs a comedy routine that goes well. He ends up having to fly to Beijing when their father ends up in the hospital.
Grace – The youngest child and daughter. She is away at boarding school in Santa Barbra. She’s only able to pack up the basics of her possessions when she finds out. Grace is in the teenage rebellious stage and she wants to be a fashion designer. Grace is the first one to be picked up by the dad and is on the journey the longest.
Charles has about $10,000 stowed away in cash and that is the money the family uses to travel across the country. At one point, they stop at one of his factories (and break in) to pick up a shipment of some cosmetics for a small town general store that Charles personally helped kick start. Unfortunately, the products had melted by the time they reached the destination. Another stop along the way was to New Orleans where one of Charles’s longtime friend Nash lives. This is where Andrew leaves the journey. And somewhere in North Carolina the family get into a car crash. They get a rental car and Grace drives the entire way to New York while her dad and stepmother sleep.
Keep scrolling to see how the book ends.
If you don't want to know then the post ends here for you.
You have been warned.
After getting to Saina's house, Charles leaves Barbra and Grace there to fly to Beijing by himself and find his land. When he gets to his land he finds out that his grandparent's friend had been pretending to be him (Charles Wang) for years and had already claimed the land. But the impostor is a gambler so he gambled the deed to the land away. Charles gets into a fight with the man and ends up in the hospital - as a result of the fight and the mini strokes he has been suffering from.
The three children and Barbra all fly to Beijing to see Charles in the hospital. The book ends with Charles dying while surrounded by his family and his last words are "Daddy discovered America!" This was his way of saying that he found his place in America and was able to prosper.
It was a happy-sad ending. I cried a lot afterwards and wished the book were longer so I could find out what happens when the kids get back to the States.