A shockingly hilarious debut, Crazy Rich Asians will carry the reader to a civilization comparable to Lilliput, Wonderland or Narnia. Except that the inhabitants are faithful Methodists and the setting is only a plane ride away.

The characters here aren’t just “crazy rich”; they’re grotesquely, monstrously rich. These offshore Chinese, the high society of Singapore, are so moneyed that clans live in a separate world replete with their own memes, dreams and extremes. Their expectations, their shopping habits—the most spectacular excess since 18th-century France—create a backdrop that boots this novel into must-read territory.

Rachel Chu’s dating relationship with Nicholas Young takes a serious turn when he invites her to accompany him to Singapore, where he is to be best man in a friend’s wedding. Though he wants her to meet his family, Nick doesn’t think to enlighten Rachel about the extraordinary qualities of Singapore’s ultra-wealthy. She is thrown into a lions’ den of ingrown gossip and intrigue, which takes a vicious twist when Nick’s mother Eleanor decides Rachel is unworthy of the family.

A native of Singapore now living in New York, Kevin Kwan knows this relatively hidden culture inside and out, yet he is distant enough to appreciate its uniqueness and hubristic appeal to American readers. For we are all suckers for legendary troves of jewels and 70-carat earrings that brush majestically against our shoulders.

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