USA TODAY International Edition

Kwan’s ‘ Rich People’ is a flashy, funny bauble

‘ Crazy Rich Asians’ series finale offers laughs amid luxury

- Steph Cha

In the final installmen­t of his delightful Crazy Rich Asians trilogy, Kevin Kwan continues his exploratio­n of the series’ driving force: Rich People Problems. Some of these problems are minor and easily solved — your prize aquarium fish Valentino is getting a droopy eye? There’s a $ 30,000 plastic surgery that will fix that right up. But some are a bit less frivolous. In Kwan’s world, where bloodlines are scrutinize­d and mere multimilli­onaires are considered poor relations, bitterness and humilia- tion lurk around every corner.

Questions of money and status color all social interactio­n, invading even — maybe even especially — the most private and sacred spaces, between friends and lovers and family.

The set- up of Rich People Problems ( Doubleday, 398 pp., eeeg) is delicious, the juicy stuff of classic high- society drama: A rich matriarch lies on her deathbed, and no one knows what’s in the will.

The chief object of speculatio­n and scheming is Shang Su Yi’s home, Tyersall Park, the largest private estate in Singapore, covering 64 acres in a tony central neighborho­od. It’s Kwan’s answer to Pemberley or Downton Abbey, a place that has driven much of the action in every book of the Crazy Rich Asians saga, with expectatio­ns of inheritanc­e ( and disinherit­ance) shaping the motivation­s of several of the main characters. ( This movie- ready series is heading your way, with Crazy Rich Asians in the works starring Michelle Yeoh and Constance Wu.)

As Su Yi’s health declines, her jet- setting internatio­nal family converges on Tyersall Park with a range of intentions. Nick Young, Su Yi’s estranged favorite grand- son and ex- presumed heir, travels from New York to patch things up with his grandmothe­r years after a bitter fight over his marriage to American commoner Rachel Chu. Though Nick just wants to make amends, his cousin, the buffoon Edison Cheng, is set on preventing a reunion that might weaken his shot at the estate.

Meanwhile, Su Yi’s granddaugh­ter Astrid Leong deals with a nasty divorce from her vindictive husband, all while keeping her family out of the papers. In another corner, the lovable gold digger Mrs. Jack Bing, née Kitty Pong — daughter of sanitation workers turned soap opera actress turned second wife of one of the richest men in the world — finds that wealth and status can’t buy happiness when your stepdaught­er has more of both.

Kwan’s prose may be plain, but he accessoriz­es splendidly, with detailed descriptio­ns of feasts and mansions, couture clothing and shiny jewels. Rich People Problems is a fun tabloid romp full of shenanigan­s, like a society- party brawl that ruins both a Ramon Orlina glass sculpture of the hostess’ breasts and “a special pig that had only eaten truffles its entire life and was flown in from Spain.”

It’s more farce than satire, with more flash than depth, but it delivers exactly what it’s supposed to — a laugh- out- loud Asian glitz fest that’s a pure pleasure to read.

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 ??  ?? GIANCARLO CIAMPINI Kevin Kwan’s Crazy Rich Asians is headed to the screen.
GIANCARLO CIAMPINI Kevin Kwan’s Crazy Rich Asians is headed to the screen.

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