Family Trust by Kathy Wang

This book appealed to me for several reasons.

– it’s set in the San Francisco Bay Area and perhaps more importantly, not just the city itself but also the rest of the Bay Area. Don’t get me wrong, I like the city (well parts of it at least), the husband works there and all, but we live in the East Bay and it’s nice to see other parts of the area talked about.

– it’s a story about East Asian immigrants. They are originally from Taiwan, as are many of those in the Bay Area and I’m always interested in stories about immigration, particularly from Asia.

Also it opens with a whopper of a first sentence.

“Stanley Huang sat, naked but for the thing cotton dressing gown crumpled against the sterile white paper in the hospital room, and listened to the young doctor describe how he would die.”

He’s been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and this is the story of how he and his family deal with it.

He has a son, Fred, Harvard Business School grad, who’s been trying to make it big in the fintech industry but hasn’t quite yet. His daughter Kate is doing well at a well-known Silicon Valley company but is struggling with the balance of home and work. Also something seems to be up with her husband who is trying to get his start-up going.

Then there is their mother, Stanley’s ex-wife, Linda, perhaps a less-than-usual Asian woman of her time, one who continued working for decades, and yes, even divorced her husband. She’s even been thinking of dating again!

“What was one supposed to say, when one’s now-ex-husband of thirty-four years was struck with such a diagnosis?”

Stanley’s current wife Mary is 28 years younger than him. She’s a former waitress and has devoted her new life to caring for Stanley but now with Stanley dying, his family is suspicious of her motives.

For Stanley has often hinted at his riches – in the millions! Who deserves it more, the one who’s been caring for him in recent years? His children? Linda is determined to make sure her kids get their fair share.

Family Trust is a Silicon Valley story. It is also an Asian family story. It is also an American story. It’s a story about the pursuit of success, about money, about family obligation. There probably will be Crazy Rich Asians comparisons but as someone not a fan of that series, let me just say that Family Trust is better. Its characters are complex yet relatable, its observations of Silicon Valley life and family relationships are astute and witty. A great debut!

Honestly, Linda has some of the best lines.

“The woman likely didn’t even think she spoke English, regarding her as just another sexless Asian dotting her periphery – someone who could be ignored at will, like a houseplant.”

 

And here’s another – apparently there are differences according to where you landed up as an immigrant.

“Everyone knew that the best Chinese immigrants of their generation were settled in California, and mostly in the Bay Area. There were some in Los Angeles, but then you ran the risk of ending up with some sleazy import/exporter. And Linda had no intention of being matched with some grocery store operator in, say, Reno.”

 

“She knew exactly how Americans saw women like the Mercedes driver – as indistinguishable from herself. An Asian lady consumed with the creation and consumption of money, who neglected to hug her children. Why did white people like to pick and choose from cultures with such zealous judgment? Of course they just loved Szechuan cuisine served by a young waitress in a cheap cheongsam, but as soon as you proved yourself just as adept at the form of capitalism they had invented? Then you were obsessed. Money crazed. Unworthy of sympathy.”

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2019 Reading Challenges

I love starting reading challenges but I never finish them, except for those that run for just a few months in a year. Hoping for better accountability next year, so I’m putting them in a permanent post, whether it’s a blog or Litsy challenge. Here goes!

The Reading Women podcast #readingwomenchallenge (get the pdf here)

Mystery/Thriller by WOC
Woman w mental illness
Author fr Nigeria or NZ
About or set in Appalachia
Children’s book
Multi-gen family saga
Featuring a woman in science
Myth retelling
Novella
Woman athlete
YA Books by WOC
Lambda Literary Award winner
Translated book pub before 1945
A play
Written by South Asian author
By indigenous woman
From 2018 Reading Women Award shortlist
Romance or love story
About nature – The Lotus Garden by Li Ang
Historical fiction
Book bought/borrowed in 2019 – Mary B by Katherine J Chen
Book you got because of cover
Any book from a series
Book featuring a religion other than your own
Book by Jesmyn Ward
Book by Jhumpa Lahiri – The Clothing of Books

#Booked2019 – a Litsy reading challenge

Female detective
Fairy tale retelling
Reminds you of your happy place – The Library Book by Susan Orlean
Related to a podcast
Set in Ireland or Irish author
new to you author – Mary B by Katherine J Chen
night-oriented title
cli-fi
Indigenous author
features a musician
social media focus
food or beverage on cover
genrebusting
Muslim author or MC
book to movie
comic
book gifted to you
diverse middle grade
book about addiction
soldiers story
new in 2019
poc MC paranormal
public domain
political intrigue

The monthly motif reading challenge hosted by Girlxoxo

JANUARY – New to You Author

Mary B by Katherine J Chen

Read a book by an author whose writing you’ve never read before.

FEBRUARY – Cover Love

Yes. We’re giving you permission to judge a book by its cover and read a book with a cover that really caught your eye.

MARCH – Royalty, Kingdoms, Empires, Governments

Read a book in which the character is involved in a ruling or governing body in some way.

APRIL – Crack the Case

Read a mystery, detective story, true crime, cozy mystery, or book involving a puzzle to solve.

MAY – One Sitting Reads

Read something that is short enough you could get through it in one sitting- try a graphic novel, comic book, short story, essay, or short collection of poetry.

JUNE – Diversify Your Reading

Read a book with a character (or written by an author) of a race, religion, or sexual orientation other than your own or read about a culture you want to learn more about.

JULY – Through The Years

Read a book involving time travel, a book with a ‘time’ setting such as The Great Gatsby (20s), read a historical fiction/nonfiction, or choose a book published in your birth year.

AUGUST – Mode of Transportation

Read a book where the mode of transportation plays a role in the story (ex. Murder on the Orient Express or The Boys in the Boat)

SEPTEMBER – Animal, Number, Color, Name

One of those things needs to be in the title of the book you choose (ex. Water for Elephants, Red Queen, Fahrenheit 451, Rebecca, Harry Potter)

OCTOBER – Tricks and Trades

Read a book set in a theater, an amusement park, a circus, or a book involving magic, illusions, or characters with special powers.

NOVEMBER – Seasons, Elements, and Weather

Embrace a winter wonderland setting, pick a beach read, or read about a natural disaster. As long as a season, element, or the weather plays a key role in the story or is part of the title, it counts. (ex. Little Fires Everywhere, The Snow Child, On The Island)

DECEMBER – Last Chance

Finally read that one book that you’ve been meaning to get to all year long.

Back to the Classics hosted by Books and Chocolate

All books must have been written at least 50 years ago to qualify; therefore, books must have been published no later than 1969 for this challenge.

1. 19th Century Classic. Any classic book originally published between 1800 and 1899.
2. 20th Century Classic – No Fond Return of Love by Barbara Pym
 
3. Classic by a Female Author The Forsaken Inn by Anna Katherine Green
 
4. Classic in Translation. 
5. Classic Comedy. 
6. Classic Tragedy.
7. Very Long Classic. 
8. Classic Novella. 
9. Classic From the Americas (includes the Caribbean) – Lonely Londoners
10. Classic From Africa, Asia, or Oceania (includes Australia). – Snow Country
11. Classic From a Place You’ve Lived Fifth Chinese Daughter by Jade Snow Wong
12. Classic Play – Death of a Salesman