With his trademark humor and sarcasm, Kwan takes us deeper into the lives of the mega-rich in Singapore and China. Most of the same characters we met in the first two novels (Crazy Rich Asians and China Rich Girlfriend) return for various cameos and story lines.
I’m torn on how much I liked this one versus the first two. I still liked all of the characters, but I felt Kwan focused more on their faults than their strengths in this book. It made them more human, but simultaneously showed monstrously disproportionate their temper tantrums can be.
“Peel away the veneer of wealth and sophistication and you’ll find extremely provincial, narrow-minded people. The problem is that they all have too much money, and it’s come so easily to them that they think they’re bloody geniuses and so they are always right.” (344)
The other thing I thought was really interesting and insightful for Kwan to include was the idea of shame/guilt/fear passed on from generation to generation. I’ve seen more and more talk about this over the years, in particular in correlation with Jewish and Asian communities/individuals. These two quotes from a longer passage really stood out to me and emphasized the difference between Nick growing up with a full extended family in Singapore and Rachel growing up in the U.S. with a single mom, but still a wide family.
“I’ve realized that so many of my fears aren’t really my own. They’re the fears of my mother, my father, my grandparents. I’ve just unconsciously internalized them, and I’ve let these fears affect every decision I make.” (380)
“Scientists talk about how we inherit health issues from our parents through our genes, but we also inherit this entire lineage of fear and pain—generations of it. I can acknowledge whenever my mother is reacting out of this fear, but the most powerful thing I’ve realized is that I’m not responsible for her pain. I won’t make her fears mine any longer and I don’t want to pass them on to my son!” (381)
I also feel like there was a fascinating conversation about this on Ugly Delicious (IMDb link), but I can’t find the episode.
Overall, I enjoyed the series and I enjoyed Kwan’s take on the mega-rich and how they live their lives, spend their money, and interact with each other. There were so many characters Kwan probably would’ve been better off writing more books or segmenting the stories into two trilogies, but this works and you mostly get closure. I enjoyed Rachel and Nick’s ending (or beginning), but I’m not sure how I felt about some of the other things being tied up – some were too neat, some I’m still not sure if they happened, and still others I was grumpy about – but that’s a book right?
Recommendation: If you made it this far clearly read the wrap up of the series. Kwan wrote a fascinating trilogy that covers a lot of ground. It could’ve been tighter at the end, but overall it left me with a happy feeling for the future of the characters and that’s all you can ask for some times.
Opening Line: “Bettina Ortiz y Meña was not accustomed to waiting.”
Closing Line: “He opened his eyes again, gazing at his beautiful wife, gazing across the dance floor at Astrid and Charlie in their blissful embrace, and gazing at last toward the great house with all the lights in its windows ablaze, alive, reborn.” (Whited out to avoid spoilers; highlight to read.)
Additional Quotes from Rich People Problems
“Remember what that radio host Delilah always says? ‘Forgiveness is a gift we give ourselves.’ If you think you’re able to let things go without ever seeing her again, more power to you.” (47)
“The quality of the stone isn’t perfect, but when I wore it, it always reminded me of how life can surprise you. Sometimes, the thing that at first appears flawed can end up being the most perfect thing in the world for you.” (188)
After all this time, with all the medical advances we’ve made, the human body is still an unfathomable mystery to us. The heart most of all.” (213)
“No matter how old you are, no matter how ready you think you are, nothing quite prepares you for the loss of a parent.” (218)
“She has been here on this earth my entire life and now suddenly in the blink of an eye she’s gone. Gone, gone, gone. And I am an orphan now. And even though she was a difficult woman, even though she drove me crazy half the time and I was never ever quite good enough for her exacting standards, my heart is broken. I will miss her every day and every hour for the rest of my life.” (218)
“Paris is great because every street you walk down is like an unfolding novel. I actually love it because even though there’s history everywhere, it’s not my history.” (306)