Charles Wang has lost his business, his house, his cars and his luxurious Bel Air lifestyle. He decides to take his wife, Barbara, son Andrew and daughter Grace, on a road trip across America to stay with his eldest daughter, Sania, in New York. After that he intends to fly to China to reclaim his families land that was confiscated when China became a Communist country. Along the way Andrew tries his hand at stand-up comedy, Barbara considers leaving after spending too many nights in cheap motels and Grace is concerned about her fashion blog and what being poor will mean to it. It is a road trip that makes them all look at their lives in a different way.
I thought this was well written, and combined both comedy and more serious issues, like cultural history, the American dream, death and relationships, in balance. The Wangs, as a family, are very likeable in their own way. Charles is a loving father and proud of the business he built as well as his Chinese heritage. Barbara came from Taiwan with the sole intention of marrying Charles after the death of his first wife. As a step-mother she is very distant from the children, but the trip makes her look closer at this. Andrew, is at college but fancies himself as a comendian, he is finding his way in the world, and Grace is a typical 16 year old girl who is interested in fashion and beauty. Sania, the eldest is an artist but is hiding from the art world after bad reviews and a failed engagement. Through the course of the novel it is interesting to see how they begin to see life differently.
My only complaint about this book is the philosophical musings of the characters. I’m not averse to political or cultural philosophical debate but it just goes on too long and really detracts from the plot. I found myself not wanting to pick up this book at times, it bored me slightly. It is an ambitious novel with a great story but too many distractions to keep my interest.