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Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
Published by Anchor ISBN 9780345803788
Trade paperback, $15, 544 pages
From the very beginning, a family tree page, I was laughing out loud. The main characters are Nick and Rachel. Nick comes from a very wealthy family in Singapore, and Rachel was born in China, but as a baby moved to America with her mother, a real estate agent. They both live in New York and work at a university.
Nick's childhood best friend is getting married back home, and Nick wants Rachel to accompany him and spend the summer in Singapore. That is where the fun begins.
The wedding is over-the-top Kardashian style, but I'm not sure even that clan could imagine how opulent and over-indulgent this wedding will be. We meet Nick's family, including his grandmother who lives in a Buckingham Castle-type home that is so secluded it isn't even on a map.
Nick's mother Eleanor is a controlling woman, who frightens everyone including her posse of friends and family who both fear her and want her approval. His father hides out in Australia to avoid the two women in his life. (And who can blame him?)
Eleanor fears Nick will marry Rachel, a woman whose family is not only not wealthy, but has skeletons in the closet, so she conspires with others to break them up. (That includes a mean girl gang whose vicious bridal shower "prank" is truly awful.)
There are many characters here, but Kwan does a wonderful job giving each of them fair time and creating interesting people you want to read more about. (And we will get more- Kwan's sequel China Rich Girlfriend publishes in July- hooray!)
The descriptions of the houses, clothes (one character regularly shops for couture in Paris) and even food is stunning and so vivid, I can easily see a movie or TV series of this. One of my favorite food passages takes place at a popular food stall:
"A few minutes later, the four of them were seated just outside the main hall under a huge tree strung with yellow lights, every inch of their table covered with colorful plastic plates piled high with the greatest hits of Singaporean street cuisine. There was the famous char kuay teow, a fried omelet with oysters called orb luak, Malay rojak salad bursting with chunks of pineapple and cucumber, Hokkien-style noodles in a thick garlicky gravy, a fish cake smoked in coconut leaves called otay otay, and a hundred sticks of chicken and beef satay."Crazy Rich Asians drops the reader into a world unlike one most of us can even conceive of, and man is it a blast spending a few hours there.
rating 5 of 5