Review: Family Trust: A Novel by Kathy Wang


Note: I won this book in a giveaway either on Goodreads.com or Twitter.

The Story

“Life is about solving problems….” (p. 364)

Linda Liang is right–life IS about how you solve problems, recover from them, and go on after them. Her ex-husband Stanely, who has bragged endlessly about his supposed net-worth, is now remarried to a younger wife who seems to dote on him. Linda and Stanley’s children, Fred and Kate, are typical extremely well-educated business people on the cusp of hoped-for greatness. Until….

My Thoughts

The story is compelling and will be read and analyzed by book clubs from sea to sea. I liked Linda–I could relate to her, her assinine ex-husband, her children’s disregard for the ways of the older generation, her loneliness and feelings of not being “seen” due to her age–all of it. Stanley was a pathetic figure. Oddly I didn’t dislike his 2nd wife–no, no, NOT because of the older man/younger woman thing! I thought she was pragmatic–she took the best solution to her problems back in China and treated the guy who got her out of there very decently. That’s good.  Fred and Kate? Meh. Typical high-flyers, too self-absorbed to attract me, but that means they were also very well written! I just didn’t invest myself in their drama–I saw it all more from their mother’s perspective.

Cultures and Worldviews

The cultural education this book provides was even more interesting to me than the plot (which was well paced).  I’m quite familiar from past work life, with the ways of attorneys, fund managers, CEOS etc, but have had insufficient contact with Ivy Leaguers of this ilk so was quite interested in the ruthlessness of this breed. I also found Linda’s way of looking at things to represent a cultural worldview–first generation Chinese, becoming a very successful investor and all the trappings of that “class” of woman was very interesting.

“White people operated by an entirely foreign set of standards. They thought love and happiness were an individual birthright regardless of how unrealistic one’s expectations might be. They believed they all deserved secure retirements with luxury vacations and the best medical care, no matter how many financially stupid decisions they’d made earlier in their lives.” (p. 86).

First and Second Generation Immigrants

Family, education, professional success all mattered greatly to Linda and her friends. Yet to Fred and Kate it was more a matter of personal success–reflected glory. Fred’s angsty pondering shows the difference:

“…pondered why everyone said family was so great. What good had his ever been? [Aside from paying for all that education, including Harvard Business School??(comment mine not Wang’s)] They’d never been happy for him at the right times; had often mourned when they should have been merry.” (p. 255)

Fred and Kate are typical second generation–they overlook the hard work it took for their parents to make it and, in turn, to provide success for their children.

My Verdict

3.75 stars

This is amazingly well done for a debut! Of course, a Harvard Business School grad should be an excellent communicator! A great book club read–all the cultural information Linda provides and that on the HBS grads presented will help make some really fascinating discussions. This is one book that could get me to GO to a book club just to discuss the cultural things.

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