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Book Review: "Crazy Rich Asians", by Kevin Kwan

I’m sorry, but I’ve had enough. I’ve had enough of being around all these crazy rich Asians, all these people whose lives revolve around making money, spending money, flaunting money, comparing money, hiding money, controlling others with money, and ruining their lives over money. And if I marry you, there will be no escaping it, even if we live on the other side of the world.

Rachel Chu, in “Crazy Rich Asians”

WARNING: Potential spoilers ahead.

Any book that you can finish in one day is indeed a good book. So let me just say that I couldn’t put this book down.

“Crazy Rich Asians” details the story of Rachel Chu, an economics professor at NYU who falls in love with a history professor at the same school. He neglects to tell her some things about his family in Singapore, so when they go over there for his best friend’s wedding, she’s surprised to discover that he’s rich…very rich…Illuminati rich. The problem with being Illuminati rich is that the wealth, passed through multiple generations, goes to people’s heads. This is clear when Rachel is shunned and hazed by people she’s supposed to be able to call family.

What’s really great about this book is that it’s multiple narratives weaved into one. Not only do you see Nick and Rachel, but you also see secondary characters Astrid Leong and Michael Teo, where the situation is very similar but with reversed characters (Astrid being the wealthy, aloof one and Michael being the normal, intimidated spouse). There’s even multiple timelines, with Kitty Pong being the exact type of person Eleanor Leong was so worried about in Rachel, doing to Bernard Tai what she thought Rachel would do to Nicholas. The author does an extremely wonderful job weaving these stories together, and tying them into the same penultimate message: that marrying between different classes results in a lot of emotional pain.

It’s a much happier story than “The Great Gatsby”. There are many redeeming characters, Nicholas being our primary protagonist, but also people like Charlie Wu, the crazy-rich-but-not-mentally-crazy Asian who had Astrid as his ex-fiancee (and does something amazing for the man who stole Astrid’s heart), and Sophia Leong, the nurse on the island during Amarita’s bachelorette party. There’s also no death or murder, which is a nice plus. I had thought initially this was a rewrite of “The Great Gatsby”, talking about rich people and rich people problems, and it is in a way; but the last-mile problem of making it relatable to today’s audiences, and communicating the emotionally healthy way to deal with such stressors, makes this book infinitely more valuable.