Jade Chang’s The Wangs vs. The World tells the story of the Wangs after their patriarch looses all their money, homes, cars, etc after a bad business venture. The time period is the beginning of the economic collapse that would devastate so many people, but this story, while it talks a little about the world’s problems, really is a story about the Wangs. For centuries, the Wangs were wealthy land owners in China. This branch of the family survived the war with Japan by escaping to Taiwan.
Charlie started fresh in the new world and ended up with a makeup empire that collapsed due to bad timing and a lot of hubris. Saina, his oldest daughter, moved to NY and became a well known artist, but recently had a crushing show that may have ruined her career. Since she bought her house on her own, no one’s coming to repossess it and the rest of the family will need to move in with her.Andrew, middle child and virgin, drops out of college since his dad can’t foot the bill anymore. Grace, an internet fashion blogger and prep school attendee, also has to leave school. Along with Charlie’s second wife Barbra, the rest of the family drives across country to begin their new life at Saina’s country home.
The novel switches characters often so we really see the impact that this move and the financial/success changes have on all the family members and how it changes how they see themselves.
There’s a lot going on in this novel since each character has to grow and change to survive this. But the love thats shared by the family will help them move on. There’s also a lot of Chinese-American culture references which I found enlightening and don’t think I’ve read anything from this perspective.
At first the switching between characters was not enjoyable, but by the end of the novel I was waiting for each family member’s perspective of the current events.
Slow, but very interesting read.
Read July 2017
After the thick, superficial novel I last read, it was great to dive into a great mystery by Hakan Nesser. The Unlucky Lottery follows a group of old friends who finally hit it big on the lottery on their celebratory evening. The next morning, one of the friends is dead, another missing.
With Chief Inspector VanVeeteren still on sabbatical and only offering occasional advice, Inspector Munson must work the case with his team with very little clues why one of the men was stabbed repeatedly and excessively to death in his own bed. When his wife pleads guilty, the pieces seem almost but not quite together and Munson keeps looking for further confirmation of the murderer.
As always, this Scandanavian mystery has a slow, steady pace with several turns along the way. I enjoyed the unveiling of the murderer but the inspector and the last vignette of peace.
Read April 2017
In The Stonecutter, Camilla Lackberg brings back Patrik Hedstrom and Erika Falck who have just had a daughter together. Erika deals with her new post partum life as best she can and befriends another mother. Unfortunately, it is her new friend’s daughter whose body is found in a fisherman’s net. As Patrik and Erika deal with their new parenthood and how emotional another child’s death can be, it is even more heart breaking when the post mortem reveals that the water in Sara’s lungs came from a bathtub.
Lackberg writes multiple sub-plots that run throughout the novel. The stonecutter, Anders, falls for the boss’s daughter Agnes over 80 years ago and tumultuous love affair has repercussions that Lackberg skillfully and slowly reveal to the reader. Patrik’s boss discover’s his paternal, although still very self centered, side when an offspring from a long forgotten affair turns up. Erika’s sister reunites with her horrifically abusive husband in hopes of saving the children. All the stories are united by parenthood and how much of what the adults are doing is for the children’s benefit. Each parent, in their own way, tries to make their children feel their love, sometimes in very disturbing and unhealthy ways.
Camilla Lackberg’s novels are a thrill to read and The Stonecutter was no exception. All the story lines and time periods fit together and make the novel flow. She is able to deal with very serious subjects of abuse, murder, greed while still keeping the main characters balanced and loving.
Read May 2015
Early on Diane Chamberlain warns her character Riley Macpherson that “When someone dies unexpectedly the way your father did, they don’t have the chance to clean everything up. You know, erase sites he’s Googled or whatever. So don’t dig too deeply into his personal things. Don’t upset yourself.” The The Silent Sister wouldn’t be very interesting if Riley had listened to that advice. Instead Riley moves into her father’s home to help clear it out to sell. Her brother lives close to her dad’s house, but he’s messed up on alcohol and memories from childhood and wartime, so its up to Riley to deal with her father’s estate.
Quickly, Riley learns of a secret girlfriend her father had, her mom’s best friend. Apparently, after her mom’s death, her dad and Jeannie became good friends and then more. This is the first of many secrets that her dad kept, including that her dead sister was really alive and hiding. Lisa was a child prodigy who’s schedule ruled her family. She travelled, practiced, committed murder, and then drowned herself, supposedly. Riley believed that story her entire life and its only upon her father’s death that the story starts to unravel.
Riley is alone. No longer in a relationship, there’s no one in her life that she can confide in and she’s unsure who she can trust in her father’s world. Jeannie is intrusive. The Kyle’s, who live at her father’s RV park, seem nice and confide more about her father than they probably should, like that Riley’s adopted. Another blow to Riley’s world. Her sister died or disappeared more than 20 years ago. Her mother died 7 years ago. Now her dad is gone and her brother’s lost. And it might be true that this wasn’t even her biological family.
Riley is determined to uncover the truth in her family. Why would her sister murder her violin teacher? How did she fake her own death and then escape? She was only 17 when she left. In Riley’s lonely world, the search for her sister becomes the link that holds her together. Diane Chamberlain shows how crazy family ties can be, but at the same time they’re all someone has.
This was a great read! Thoroughly engaging with so many twists along the way.
Read February 2015