Family dramas are a sweet spot for me, and my latest read Family Trust by Kathy Wang was right up my alley.
Family patriarch Stanley Huang is dying of cancer. Stanley is facing his own mortality with a positive, but slightly passive attitude. His wife, Mary, his much younger second wife, has him eating all kinds of cancer-fighting foods. While his kids, Fred and Kate, and his ex-wife, Linda, wished he would approach death with a little more practicality.
Getting Stanley to get his legal and financial affairs in order is proving difficult. However, Fred, Kate, and Linda also have their own problems to deal with. Fred has dreams of career advancement, while his girlfriend, Erika, has dreams of a diamond engagement ring and a large bank account. Kate is supporting her two kids and her "entrepreneur" husband, Denny. Financially savvy and retired, Linda has suddenly discovered the joys and perils of online dating.
Personally, I found the stories and shenanigans of Stanley's extended family to be far more interesting. Fred seems to only tolerate his golddigger girlfriend. Everything has to be the most expensive and best quality for Erika. Anything less than the best won't do. She also seemed borderline racist. Erika, a native of Budapest, didn't grow up around people of other races, which is sometimes her excuse for the things that come out of her mouth. But Fred tolerates this to a point. As an Asian man, he struggles with the belief that women don't find him desirable or attractive. So it makes sense that he would put up with Erika, that is until he reaches a breaking point.
Kate doesn't mind being the sole breadwinner because she has faith that her husband's startup will one day take off. But how can that day come when Denny spends most of his time in the attic "running" his business. Kate isn't sure what Denny does all day in the attic. On some level she doesn't want to know, but eventually curiosity gets the better of her. She starts spying on Denny and changing up her routine in hopes of "catching" him in the act. In the act of what? She's not sure, but she's about to get hit over the head with what seems to be the obvious answer: an affair. Kate suspects he's cheating, but hesitates on acting upon her suspicions.
Linda on the other hand, steps out of her comfort zone and into the adventures of online dating. The first few in-person dates don't go so well. But a relationship via phone calls and video messaging are right up Linda's alley. She has the companionship she seeks without the drama and pressures of actually living with someone. But even this relationship has its limitations once her paramour starts asking for money. My radar went up immediately. The dude has to be a scammer. He professes his deep undying love for a person he's never met, all the while asking for money for his own kids (if they exist). And he can't come to the United States -- yet. For a woman who comes across so smart, sarcastic, and witty, I thought she was acting rather dumb in her online relationship.
Overall, I like the book but thought the pacing was a bit slow. Fred, Kate, and Linda narrate the book, and sometimes I felt the author went off on a lot of unnecessary tangents and overly long backstories. When Kate makes the decision to spy on Denny, it was because of a technological tool created at the company she works at. But it took several pages before the author made the connection between the two, which was annoying to me. I think 50-75 less pages would have made for a tighter and more enjoyable story.
Rating: Give it a try
Notes: I received a copy of the book from the publisher (HarperCollins) as part of a blog tour with TLC Book Tours.