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The Family Chao

de Lan Samantha Chang

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3701569,767 (3.59)36
The residents of Haven, Wisconsin, have dined on the Fine Chao restaurant's delicious Americanized Chinese food for thirty-five years, content to ignore any unsavory whispers about the family owners. Whether or not Big Leo Chao is honest, or his wife, Winnie, is happy, their food tastes good and their three sons earned scholarships to respectable colleges. But when the brothers reunite in Haven, the Chao family's secrets and simmering resentments erupt at last. Before long, brash, charismatic, and tyrannical patriarch Leo is found dead--presumed murdered--and his sons find they've drawn the exacting gaze of the entire town. The ensuing trial brings to light potential motives for all three brothers: Dagou, the restaurant's reckless head chef; Ming, financially successful but personally tortured; and the youngest, gentle but lost college student James. As the spotlight on the brothers tightens--and the family dog meets an unexpected fate--Dagou, Ming, and James must reckon with the legacy of their father's outsized appetites and their own future survival. Brimming with heartbreak, comedy, and suspense, The Family Chao offers a kaleidoscopic, highly entertaining portrait of a Chinese American family grappling with the dark undercurrents of a seemingly pleasant small town.… (més)
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» Mira també 36 mencions

Es mostren 1-5 de 15 (següent | mostra-les totes)
read this as a shared read in TIOLI, "family". I have had this on my phone it was a free audiofile Sync program. This one explores the experience of American Chinese, adopted Chinese, and Chinese illegal immigrant. Very interesting to look at these different perspectives. I fault this book for sexual detail and not sure that I would recommend this as a young adult book. I gave it 3 stars. Besides a book about family/siblings, it is also a mystery. ( )
  Kristelh | May 13, 2024 |
The book was very uneven. For example, the first half is takes place over just a few days. The 2nd half takes huge leaps of time. And there are unexplained gaps in the narrative. For example, Ming ends up in the hospital with no explanation why?! On the other hand, the narrative repeatedly talks about the key to the freezer making it painfully obvious what was going to happen.

And Leo was such an extreme caricature that I was constantly taken out of the story and questioning: Could a father actually be like this? And other parts were just absurd. The Christmas dinner was too hard to believe. How could people eat and drink so much?

I almost put it down around page 80 until I got to the amusing anecdote about a town with two barbers, one of whom always has a terrible haircut. Which do you go to? A few things like that kept me reading. Well that and I had promised to read it for my book club.

I'd like to say the 2nd half was far more interesting than the first half but the characters were largely confused in their behavior and I became largely confused by them and just couldn’t care about them. I had so many questions about various scenes, people, and objects. I kept hoping the end would bring resolution and explanation but it just left other questions.

In total, it felt like the author had very little idea of how she wanted to write the narrative and just started experimenting, trying different techniques and then dropping them, moving on to others.

While I still enjoy stories without closure, in this case, I’m can’t say I enjoyed the book enough to recommend it to a friend. But I’ll stretch to give it 2 stars because I did like the contrast of the 3 brothers, their parents, the girlfriends, etc. It had potential but just didn’t do it well. And while I didn’t care much for the book, I think it could be turned into a movie that I would enjoy watching. ( )
  donwon | Jan 22, 2024 |
Probably should've taken better notes as I went... I imagine this would be more impactful if I read Russian literature since I feel like there's [b:The Brothers Karamazov|4934|The Brothers Karamazov|Fyodor Dostoevsky|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1427728126l/4934._SX50_.jpg|3393910] references (it is explicitly namechecked as well). A family drama, lots of gray characters, and... the family tragedy is the main character, honestly? it was alright. I dragged it out by reading other books whoops. ( )
  Daumari | Dec 28, 2023 |
Lan Samantha Chang’s The Family Chao revolves around a Chinese American immigrant family settled in Haven, Wisconsin who own and operate Fine Chao , a Chinese restaurant serving the local community for thirty five years.

Leo Chao , the patriarch, is a domineering figure who is generally disliked and is just barely tolerated by his family and the community . Winnie, his wife , left him after their youngest son left for college and having forsaken all worldly possessions is now a Buddhist nun in living in the Spiritual House within their community . Her sons remain in close contact with her and love her dearly . Of the three sons William (Dagou) , Ming, and James –“ the handsome son, the accomplished son, and the good son”, Dagou, once an aspiring musician without much success, had returned to help his father when their mother had fallen ill six year ago and now works with his father as a cook in the family restaurant and has a complicated love life. He is target of constant bullying and berating from his father, tensions compounding when he demands to be made partner in the family business as promised previously. Ming, the middle child and most successful of Leo’s sons chooses to distance himself as far as possible from his father and the community in which he has always felt like an outsider. Academically accomplished, he pursues a life of affluence in Manhattan. Growing up Chinese American in a predominantly white community, his childhood experiences coupled with his father’s abrasiveness leave him struggling with feelings of self-loathing and a general feeling of disconnect from his community. James, the youngest is a kind hearted and sensitive premed student. He looks up to his brothers and is fiercely loyal. The brothers join their father and their family dog Alf during Christmas right before the family is to host the annual Christmas dinner at their restaurant. What follows is a tense and confrontational family reunion with pent up resentments, secrets and deception bubbling to the surface of what was already a fractured, complicated and dysfunctional family dynamic.

Leo Chao dies after being locked in the freezer in his restaurant and his body is discovered the day after the party. The presumed murder puts the restaurant and family members in the spotlight. Subject to hushed speculations, open suspicion and public scrutiny, the family must answer questions raised not only among themselves but by their own community of friends and fellow immigrants and in the eyes of law. Complicating matters further is a missing bag of money, the life savings of a dead man whose family is searching for it and that was mistakenly picked up by James who tried to administer CPR to save this man’s life when he collapsed at Union Station.

The story combines family drama, mystery and dark humor and explores themes of ambition, family, loyalty, mental health, spirituality , cultural identity, racial stereotyping and immigrant assimilation. The first half of the book is slower in pace, building up to the death of Leo Chao. The author’s sensitive yet insightful portrayal of second generation immigrant experiences and the struggles associated with conflicting expectations and cross-cultural identity is commendable. The second half is relatively fast paced describing the subsequent trial and unraveling of the mystery .

The novel is described as a retelling of a Russian classic, but I would say that on its very own , The Family Chao is a very well structured , engaging and enjoyable literary mystery. Thanks to NetGalley and W.W. Norton & Company for the eARC in exchange for an honest review. ( )
  srms.reads | Sep 4, 2023 |
The family Chao or Chow if westernised and if there was more than one, add an s and it becomes chaos, is a wonderful read and none of the word play is an accident.

There are many stories of migrant families leaving in order that their children have better chances than they might have had back in their home country, Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue and Pachinko by Jin Min Lee are two recent examples that I have read. In both books the themes of love, loss and belonging feature heavily and so The Family Chao is no different in these respects. Food can also play a big role in the story as it does in Pachinko but is an integral part of the Chao’s existence because they come from China and run a restaurant and so food ios their way to survive but also the route to their destruction.

Winnie and Leo Chau settle in the US and set up a restaurant serving Chinese food in a small town and have three sons. Dagou who is like his father, Ming who leaves and makes a fortune in the city and James who is a naive student training to be a doctor.

Dagou returns home to help in the restaurant, having worked in New York in restaurants and as a musician. He strikes what he thinks is a deal where eventually he will become a partner in the family business and earn more money. Six years later he is still waiting and now needs the money. This sets up the family conflict from which the rest of the events unravel. Big meals are planned to bring people together to try and sort out the conflict, new girlfriends are invited in to the family and change the dynamics and the parents die. The problem is that the father dies in his cold store because he gets trapped in there overnight. It has always been a danger and this is heralded from quite early on in the story. Dagou is blamed and ends up on trial whereas all the sons have a role to play inadvertently or not.

The sons have always been embarrased by their father: he is a large, coarse man who is vulgar and sexualises most interactions with women. The sons as ABCs (American born Chinese) struggle to fit in with the middle son bullied endlessly by local children, even into adulthood.

James winces at his brother’s expression. And yet, hasn’t he always known this about Ming? That beneath his superiority and charisma, his hyper-competence, his high achievements, there existed this inconsolable self-hatred?
p97

The story demonstrates how racial stereotypes can move from whisper to ‘truth’ and the consequences this can have. Did the family serve dog meat at the meal and where is their dog? As in Pachinko, the sons end up back at home working in the restaurant regardless of their previous careers and education. It’s really quite depressing. The secrets that are held by members of the family are slowly revealed and show how little they knew about each other. They were so busy striving to fulfil the American Dream that they forgot to be a family, always aiming for something that was out there waiting to be grasped.

Ming searches through the family kitchen for supplies. Winnie left them overstocked with canned and dried goods, but the Chao men don’t buy groceries. The fridge is stuffed with take-out containers. While Katherine pretends to catch up on emails from work, Ming digs out from the piled-up counter a sprouting yellow onion and some aged potatoes. He dices the onion, and, after digging the eyes out of the potatoes, he cubes them. He watches Katherine’s reflection in the picture window. She studies his wiry hands moving with confidence from knife to bowl to pan handle. (At home, he won’t use the wok.) He cracks some eggs deftly, showing off his dexterousness perhaps, and makes a savory Spanish omelet. Dagou isn’t the only talented cook among the Chao brothers. The aging cabbage and the carrots from the fridge become, with a few flicks of magic, a salad, dressed with sesame oil and sweetened rice vinegar, sprinkled with sesame seeds. Ming and Katherine sit down at the cluttered kitchen table and eat together, not talking. Although doubtless Katherine would’ve preferred something “more authentic” -fried rice with eggs, green onions instead of yellow, and stir-fried cabbage instead of salad – the dinner leaves her curiously softened.
p188

At one point in the book the three sons are called ‘the Brothers Karamahjong’ and whilst I have never read the book, I have heard of The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoyevsky and so looked up a summary. This book has borrowed that plot and reimagined it as an American story. Themes in The Brothers Karamazov are around faith vs. doubt, moral responsibility and free will and those are present in The Family Chao. Each of the characters symbolises some of these ideas. Winnie and James represent faith both religious and in the family, Ming represents doubt and Leo appetite and perhaps selfishness. I always wondered about the role of Katherine Corcoran in the story but hers is an unshakeable faith in the family so perhaps that is what she is there for. She also embodies the racism that White America shows towards those who are not White. Is she White or is she Chinese?

When I finished the book, I wanted to know what happened to the Chao boys long-term. Did James become rich as predicted, did Ming return to the restaurant and stay? Who married Katherine? This means that I wasn’t quite satisfied with the ending for these characters.

You don’t need to know this to enjoy the book but it adds an extra layer of fat to the consumption of this comedy/tragedy.

My questions around the book might be:

What is the role of Katherine Corcoran in the story?
How does racism affect the story and outcome?
There are a lot of references to dogs in the book. What does this symbolise?
Who is guilty in this book and what of?
The reporting of the trial involved a change in narrator. Why was that and did it work?
Different things were expected of each of the sons based on their order of birth. Does this happen in families?
I completely missed the two sections – They See Themselves and The World Sees Them – only noticing them on flicking back through the book looking for a quote. What is different between the two sections in terms of narration, style and anything else? This might run alongside my second question. ( )
  allthegoodbooks | Aug 3, 2023 |
Es mostren 1-5 de 15 (següent | mostra-les totes)
The setting and characters offer plenty of space in which Chang can explore the multiple pressures brought to bear on the children of Asian immigrants growing up in a small Midwestern town --- from their family’s expectations regarding filial piety to local prejudices to a feeling of estrangement from one’s culture of origin. It is also suffused with humor, much of it ironic, and delicious descriptions of Chinese food.
afegit per Lemeritus | editaBookReporter, Norah Piehl (Feb 11, 2022)
 
Although not a strict retelling of The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky by any means, there are notable and clearly intentional parallels such as the three brothers, of course, the contentious relationship between them and their domineering father, and also a meeting at a holy place to try to deal with a monetary dispute....Leo Chao's desires have steered him in ways that hurt his family; he's a philanderer, tells crude jokes loudly in polite company, and has a way of belittling his sons that amuses him — if no one else — greatly.... Even when Leo is at his most misogynist and cruel, his comfort in his own skin is palpable on the page. When contrasted with his sons and their varied insecurities, it's hard to be entirely immune to the patriarch's charisma.... They alternately resent the need to consider their "model minority" status, try to ignore it entirely, or believe that the need to consider it is paranoid. All are fair reactions to a culture of racism that they are not responsible for, and the book treats each of them — foibles, complexities, charms, wishes, regrets and all — with empathy and respect. The Family Chao is a riveting character-driven novel that delves beautifully into human psychology; Dostoevsky himself would surely approve.
afegit per Lemeritus | editaNPR, Ilana Masad (Feb 2, 2022)
 
...the story culminates in a trial that becomes a stage for broader debates over obligation, morality, and family. But Chang is excellent at exploring this at a more intimate level as well. A later plot twist deepens the tension and concludes a story that smartly offers only gray areas in response to society’s demands for simplicity and assurance. A disruptive, sardonic take on the assimilation story.
afegit per Lemeritus | editaKirkus Reviews (Jan 11, 2022)
 
All is not well in the family. The sons reunite in Haven for the annual Christmas party to find that Winnie has tired of her tyrannical husband and has left him to seek spiritual enlightenment. The locals, meanwhile, have turned on Leo, as well: some in response to his cutthroat business dealings, others out of racism. After the party, Leo turns up dead, the authorities suspect foul play, and Dagou is charged with murder. As in Dostoyevsky’s novel, there is a trial, and important Chao family secrets will come to light, but Chang retells the story in a manner all her own, adding incisive wit while retaining the pathos. In this timely, trenchant, and thoroughly entertaining book, an immigrant family’s dreams are paid for in blood.
afegit per Lemeritus | editaPublisher's Weekly (Nov 18, 2021)
 
Glimmers of Chang’s irrefutable pedigrees occasionally sparkle through multigenerational wrongs, disastrous relationships, and complicated expositions. Alas, tenacity is necessary to endure didactic screeds about race, identity, love, and loyalty for a perhaps-too-obvious whodunit reveal.
afegit per Lemeritus | editaBooklist, Terry Hong (Nov 1, 2021)
 

» Afegeix-hi altres autors (2 possibles)

Nom de l'autorCàrrecTipus d'autorObra?Estat
Lan Samantha Changautor primaritotes les edicionscalculat
Nishii, BrianNarradorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Sheridan, PatriceDissenyadorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Winton, KellyDissenyador de la cobertaautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
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In memory of James Alan McPherson
1943–2016
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For thirty-five years, everyone supported Leo Chao's restaurant.
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Cap

The residents of Haven, Wisconsin, have dined on the Fine Chao restaurant's delicious Americanized Chinese food for thirty-five years, content to ignore any unsavory whispers about the family owners. Whether or not Big Leo Chao is honest, or his wife, Winnie, is happy, their food tastes good and their three sons earned scholarships to respectable colleges. But when the brothers reunite in Haven, the Chao family's secrets and simmering resentments erupt at last. Before long, brash, charismatic, and tyrannical patriarch Leo is found dead--presumed murdered--and his sons find they've drawn the exacting gaze of the entire town. The ensuing trial brings to light potential motives for all three brothers: Dagou, the restaurant's reckless head chef; Ming, financially successful but personally tortured; and the youngest, gentle but lost college student James. As the spotlight on the brothers tightens--and the family dog meets an unexpected fate--Dagou, Ming, and James must reckon with the legacy of their father's outsized appetites and their own future survival. Brimming with heartbreak, comedy, and suspense, The Family Chao offers a kaleidoscopic, highly entertaining portrait of a Chinese American family grappling with the dark undercurrents of a seemingly pleasant small town.

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