Summary (from the publisher): Money can’t buy happiness… but it can buy a decent fake.
Ava Wong has always played it safe. As a strait-laced, rule-abiding Chinese American lawyer with a successful surgeon as a husband, a young son, and a beautiful home–she’s built the perfect life. But beneath this façade, Ava’s world is crumbling: her marriage is falling apart, her expensive law degree hasn’t been used in years, and her toddler’s tantrums are pushing her to the breaking point.
Enter Winnie Fang, Ava’s enigmatic college roommate from Mainland China, who abruptly dropped out under mysterious circumstances. Now, twenty years later, Winnie is looking to reconnect with her old friend. But the shy, awkward girl Ava once knew has been replaced with a confident woman of the world, dripping in luxury goods, including a coveted Birkin in classic orange. The secret to her success? Winnie has developed an ingenious counterfeit scheme that involves importing near-exact replicas of luxury handbags and now she needs someone with a U.S. passport to help manage her business–someone who’d never be suspected of wrongdoing, someone like Ava. But when their spectacular success is threatened and Winnie vanishes once again, Ava is left to face the consequences.
Swift, surprising, and sharply comic, Counterfeit is a stylish and feminist caper with a strong point of view and an axe to grind. Peering behind the curtain of the upscale designer storefronts and the Chinese factories where luxury goods are produced, Kirstin Chen interrogates the myth of the model minority through two unforgettable women determined to demand more from life.
My Rating: 4/5 Stars
I was reading Kirstin Chen’s Counterfeit and just as I was about to finish this addicting read, it was announced as Reese’s Book Club pick for June. I’m so excited that this one is going to get even more attention because Counterfeit totally deserves the hype.
Counterfeit is mostly told from the perspective of Ava, Stanford grad and recent stay at-home mom who is feeling pretty down on her domestic life as her husband takes on a more demanding job. Ava is feeling lonely, until she crosses path again from one of her college roommates, Winnie, who went back home to China after getting caught in a SAT scandal during their freshmen year. Winnie is doing pretty well for herself, coordinating between American luxury handbag companies and Chinese factories, and gets Ava involved in her work..which Ava soon realizes is a counterfeit handbag business: Winnie & her shoppers buy luxury bags, sell them on eBay, and return state-of-the-art counterfeits back to the store.
At just around 250 pages, Counterfeit makes for an interesting cross between women’s and literary fiction… AND makes for the perfect read in one sitting kind of read. There are reveals and twists throughout, as Ava gets more & more into Winnie’s business. I loved the way the story-telling unraveled, as (without as many spoilers as possible), we figure out whom Ava is telling her side of the story to and who else informs us about what is going on. I think this book will get a ton of comparisons to Crazy Rich Asians, but really, it’s a story of its own as I’ve never read anything like it! As someone who is fairly into luxury handbags (albeit on the way lower-end of the spectrum), it was so interesting to read about brands like Chanel, Louis Vuitton, and Hermès, and while (slightly) fictionalized, getting a deep dive into business practices, as well as the price, both literal and figurative, we put on bags.
Overall, Counterfeit is for sure going to be a big book of the summer. If you love books about the elite & wealthy and are a handbag fanatic yourself, be sure to pick this one up!
This review is based on an advance reader’s edition provided by the publishers. By no means did receiving this review copy affect my thoughts & opinions.
Have you read Counterfeit? Is it on your TBR? Have you read any books by Kirstin Chen? Share in the comments!