Family Trust (Wang)

Kathy Wang, 2018
400 pp.

Meet Stanley Huang: father, husband, ex-husband, man of unpredictable tastes and temper, aficionado of all-inclusive vacations and bargain luxury goods, newly diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

Meet Stanley's family: son Fred, who feels that he should be making a lot more money; daughter Kate, managing a capricious boss, a distracted husband, and two small children; ex-wife Linda, familiar with and suspicious of Stanley's grandiose ways; and second wife Mary, giver of foot rubs and ego massages.

For years, Stanley has insistently claimed that he's worth a small fortune. Now, as the Huangs come to terms with Stanley's approaching death, they are also starting to fear that Stanley's "small fortune" may be more "small" than "fortune."

A compelling tale of cultural expectations, career ambitions and our relationships with the people who know us best, Family Trust draws a sharply loving portrait of modern American family life. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Birth—ca. 1984
Raised—Los Altos, California, USA
Education—B.A., University of California-Berkeley; M.B.A., Harvard University
Currently—lives in Los Altos, California

Kathy Wang is an author, whose debut novel Family Trust was published in 2018. She was raised in Los Altos, the northern part of Silicon Valley, to an engineer mother and government-worker father. She received a B.A. from the University of California-Berkeley and an M.B.A. from Harvard.

After grad school, Wang returned to California to work for Intel Corp., moving on to Seagate Technology where she became a product manager. Then she put her business career on hold following the birth of her son, and in early 2017 turned to writing. She was determined to finish a novel before giving birth to her second child—a deadline she acheved six months later when she received a call back the day from a literary agent on the very day she returned home from the hospital with her newborn daughter.

Wang and her young family live in Los Altos, California. (Adapted from various online sources. Retrieved 11/13/2018.)

Book Reviews
An old plot device gets a fresh life in this debut novel about a family gathering around the impending death of its patriarch in Silicon Valley.
Washington Post

Dryly cynical.… [T]he hook, however, lies in Wang’s relatable portraits of the various members of the Huang family.
Toronto Globe and Mail

It’s a story of trust in both senses of the word, and Wang guides us effortlessly through that intertwining mess of love and resentment that only family can create. She does so against the backdrop of Silicon Valley wealth and pretensions, perfectly skewering its (and our) culture of excess.

Set in a Silicon Valley that is as monstrous and absurd as it is true to life, Family Trust examines the nature of family loyalty and obligation as well as the choices that set lives on seemingly irreversible courses.
San Francisco Book Review

American literature knows family about as well as anything else.… By now the cliches write themselves. Yet debut author Kathy Wang confidently leans into them, spicing up old stories—the tense reunions and fatal betrayals and dying fathers—with fresh faces.
Entertainment Weekly

Addictive.… [A] story about families and what connects everyone to one another, about the ties that bind and what the comfort that financial security can bring to people inside the hamster wheel of American consumerism.

A Taiwanese-American family faces the realities and indignities of living in Silicon Valley in Wang’s astute debut.… The author brings levity and candor to the tricky terrain of family dynamics, aging, and excess. Wang’s debut expertly considers the values of high-tech high society.
Publishers Weekly

(Starred review) While many are comparing this novel to Kevin Kwan's Crazy Rich Asians, it's much more about family relationships.… Verdict: Readers who enjoy complicated novels about family issues will find this engrossing work impossible to put down. —Andrea Kempf, formerly with Johnson Cty. Community Coll. Lib., Overland Park, KS
Library Journal

[Wang] explores Silicon Valley subculture with wit and ultimately reveals a deep understanding of her feckless strivers.

Wang speaks with authority, insight, and irony about the ethnic and socio-economic realities at business school, in Silicon Valley, in mixed-race relationships and marriages. A strong debut.
Kirkus Reviews

Discussion Questions
1. To what degree do you think the Huangs are affected by Silicon Valley’s specific culture? How does the environment shape their ambition and expectations?

2. How are the trajectories of Fred and Kate’s careers shaped by gender expectations and stereotypes?

3. In what ways do each of the men in Family Trust act on their sense of entitlement and ingratiate their egos? How do the women in the book react to this?

4. In some ways Linda is the wife Stanley needs while Mary is the wife Stanley wants. How do they counteract each other and compliment each other? How well did each know the "real" Stanley?

5. The original title for this book was "A Man of Means." How does this title reflect the events of the book? In what ways does the book’s tagline, "Some of us are more equal than others" ring true?

6. How does the theme of excess versus restraint play out in the book? What does it reveal about the Huang family dynamics?

7. What are the similarities and differences in the way Fred and Kate relate to being Chinese American? How does that come into play in their romantic relationships?

8. Linda is arguably the best at reading people and situations but can also be judgmental. Do you consider her to be a reliable narrator? How reliable are the other points of view in the book?

9. Would you say Mary is a sympathetic character? Were you surprised when she disappeared?

10. Right before he dies, Stanley thinks that he is "lucky to have always been lucky." Does this seem accurate to you? How much did luck factor into the situation each of the characters find themselves in nine months after Stanley’s death?

11. What does Kate’s friendship with Camilla reveal about her marriage with Denny? What gaps does Camilla fill in Kate’s life?

12. Mary says she feels closest to Fred, Kate, and Linda when she allows herself to feel angry about Stanley’s betrayal and false promises. What role does anger play in the story? How does Stanley unite and divide those closest to him?
(Questions issued by the publisher.)

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