I absolutely loved Family Trust. Where Kevin Kwan’s trilogy was an affectionately hilarious take on the super rich Chinese families in Asia, Kathy Wang’s story is a biting yet heartfelt comedy on a wannabe rich Chinese American family in Silicon Valley. It’s a story that feels universal — any rich family can have a similar battle over inheritance. But it’s also specifically Silicon Valley, with the conversations around wealth and the tech innovation approaches to achieve wealth. And there are little touches that feel uniquely Chinese — and more accurately, Chinese-American and first+second generation immigrant. Things like the network of friends/rivals built amongst Chinese immigrants in America, the subtly ostentatious displays of wealth that signal the difference between rich and wannabe rich, the idea of the American dream and the lives in Asia people give up for their shot at it. Things I can’t quite quantify in words, but are woven through the text that makes it feel like an Asian-American story. It doesn’t have as many of the sly insider details as Kwan’s trilogy, but it’s still to me a big win for Asian American rep in contemporary fiction, and I think will appeal to fans of Crazy Rich Asians.
Family patriarch Stanley is dying and his family — ex-wife Linda, daughter Kate, son Fred and current wife Mary — are all angling for their inheritance. Linda has little faith in Stanley’s financial skills and urges her kids to basically get a dollar figure in writing from their father. She also decided to try online dating for a lark, and I just love how formidable and likeable this woman is. Michelle Yeoh may be a bit young to play her, but I’d love to see Michelle bring this character to life onscreen.
Kate is the family peacemaker / caregiver, a woman who is kicking ass career wise and has a great family, but discovers her husband (a supposed genius trying to start his own business) may be hiding something from her.
Fred reminds me of Eddie Cheng in Crazy Rich Asians — always angling for the next step up in the corporate ladder and wondering why he isn’t getting his due reward for his financial and business genius. A former classmate makes him an offer that may make his dreams of major wealth and entry into top-tier Silicon Valley C-suites come true, and the results are hilariously fitting.
I also loved Mary’s chapter — she knows who she is within the family dynamic and loves Stanley for the financial stability and relative comfort he brings to her life. She massages his feet and makes him feel like a king, and he gives her money and a house. It’s all very clear and straightforward and I like how Kathy Wang shows how she does have genuine affection for Stanley instead of painting her as totally avaricious. This holds true for the other characters — despite the discussions over inheritance and wealth, Wang keeps them all human and sympathetic.
Even Stanley — whom we learn has anger management issues and a history of obfuscating the truth to make himself feel more important — is portrayed with sympathy, and by the end appears almost like a King Lear tragic figure, a man who wanted to be larger than life but cannot escape the realities of age.
Finally, I love the feminist feel of this book. While the men in the Huang family are the ones most overtly grasping at wealth and corporate success — and most bombastic about their claims to such — it is the women who reveal themselves as the true successes, which they’ve achieved through much quieter means. I love that because the idea of the American Dream often rewards the extroverted and the ruthlessly ambitious. So I love this nod to the Susan Cain-esque quiet revolution, where you don’t have to be a Type A go-getter to achieve success.
Thanks to Harper Collins Canada for an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.