Kevin Kwan

Crazy Rich Asians

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Crazy Rich Asians Summary

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Crazy Rich Asians is a 2013 satirical romance by Singapore-born American author Kevin Kwan. The novel follows twenty-eight-year-old Economics professor Rachel Chu as she accompanies her long-term boyfriend, Nick Young to his home in Singapore, where she learns that he is from an extremely wealthy and powerful family who do not approve of Rachel’s origins. The novel, loosely based on Kwan’s own childhood in Singapore, was adapted in 2018 into a movie of the same title. Kwan has also published two sequels: China Rich Girlfriend (2015) and Rich People Problems (2017).

As the novel opens, Nick asks Rachel to join him in Singapore for the wedding of his best friend, Colin Khoo. Rachel is excited. She and Nick have been dating for two years, but she knows next to nothing about his family. She hopes that this trip might indicate an intensifying seriousness in their relationship. Moreover, she has a best friend of her own in Singapore, her old college roommate, Peik Lin. At the same time, she is nervous: Nick will not give her any details about his family in advance.

From Nick’s point of view, we learn that he is simply stumped. He and Rachel live simply and frugally as young academics in New York City, and he doesn’t know how to explain that his old life in Singapore is unimaginably opulent. He asks his cousin Astrid what he should do. She advises him to prepare Rachel for a serious culture shock; Nick doesn’t follow this advice. Instead, he decides to brazen it out, telling himself that it shouldn’t be a big deal.

Meanwhile, the Singapore elite is buzzing with gossip: Nick Young is bringing his new girlfriend to Singapore for the society event of the year. Some people have heard that this girlfriend is a nobody: American-born Chinese with no name or money. Others claim she is an heiress from Taiwan. Many of the wealthy young women in Nick’s circle are displeased. He is the heir to an enormous fortune and a prestigious position, and everyone in his world believes he should marry one of their own.

This includes his family. Nick’s mother, Eleanor, hires a private detective to dig into Rachel’s past and family background. She instructs her friends and relatives to sabotage Nick’s relationship with Rachel.

When Astrid finds an incriminating message on her husband Michael’s phone, she realizes he is having an affair. She confronts Michael: he admits that he has a mistress in Hong Kong. Astrid wants to work on their marriage, but Michael leaves her. Astrid follows him to his mistress’ apartment. There, Michael reveals that he is not having an affair. He made it look as though he were cheating on Astrid so that she would leave him. He has been unhappy for years, and the main cause is her family, whom Michael hates. He begs Astrid to let him go.

Arriving in Singapore, Rachel is overwhelmed by the discovery of Nick’s wealth and fame. Meanwhile, the women of Nick’s circle—following Eleanor’s orders—do everything they can to upset and humiliate her. During a several-day hen party, Rachel is separated from Nick and subjected to all-out bullying. Meanwhile, Nick tells Colin he loves Rachel.

Rachel tells Nick what happened at the hen party. Nick is shocked, but he doesn’t want to return to New York at once. He persuades Rachel to take a road trip with him to the summer home belonging to his grandmother, the family matriarch Su Yi. He plans to ask Rachel to marry him there.

Instead, they find Eleanor and Su Yi waiting for them. Eleanor announces that Rachel’s father is not dead (as she believes) but in jail in China. Rachel’s mother is wanted for kidnapping. Eleanor and Su Yi forbid Nick from marrying Rachel, on pain of disinheritance.

Nick and Rachel leave, and Rachel asks to be taken to Peik’s house. There she takes to her bed, overcome by the revelations about her family and by the cruelty of her boyfriend’s family. Eventually, she decides to go to China with Peik to meet her father. Before she leaves, she breaks up with Nick.

Nick hides at Colin’s house until Colin returns early from his honeymoon to tell him to go after Rachel.

As Peik and Rachel set off for China, Nick arrives in an SUV, with Rachel’s mother, Kerry.

Begging Rachel not to go, Kerry tells Rachel the full story. Her husband was an abusive drunk. Rachel is the product of an affair with a kind neighbor. Kerry’s husband wanted the baby killed, but with the neighbor’s help, Kerry and Rachel fled the country.

Rachel pities her mother and the two are reconciled. Kerry tells her that Nick is a good man and that she should give him a second chance.

Nick and Rachel are reconciled, and they go for a meal together, bickering happily about where to eat.