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.
"I loved Lan Samantha Chang's The Family Chao, at once a brilliant reimagining of Dostoevsky and a wholly original and gripping story about the passions, rivalries, and searing pressures that roil a singular immigrant family." -J ess Walter, author of The Cold Millions
"[A] sizzling...bravely unsentimental murder mystery about a Chinese American family in small-town Wisconsin." - Richard Lipez, Washington Post
"An ingenious and cunning reboot of Dostoyevsky's The Brothers Karamazov. The harrowing and humorous family drama is wrapped in a murder mystery... In this timely, trenchant, and thoroughly entertaining book, an immigrant family's dreams are paid for in blood. For Chang, this marks a triumphant return." - Publishers Weekly
"A Dickensian drama of family conflicts and intrigues; an insightful comedy of the American immigrant experience, and of a small town's inner workings. Chang's creation of characters through dialogue is worthy of a great playwright." - John Irving, author of Avenue of Mysteries
"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." - Kirkus Reviews
"[Chang] lives and writes to push the boundaries of her craft and her world... Her new novel is a genre bender: a murder story whose prose sings and snickers and soars as engagingly as Chang's literary fiction." - Meredith Maran, Washington Post
"A playful literary romp with a serious heart. Ostensibly it's a murder mystery...but it's also an exploration of genre, of literary types and stereotypes, and the impact of these types on the hopes and dreams of its characters... The action soars... Chang's narrative [is] operatic and subversive." - May-Lee Chai, Minneapolis Star Tribune
"[Chang] turns the tired truism about every town having a Chinese restaurant on its head... Beautifully executed." - Bethanne Patrick, Los Angeles Times
"Funny, thought-provoking and paced like a thriller, The Family Chao radically redefines the immigrant novel while balancing entertainment and delight." - BookPage
"Family drama, murder mystery, love story, The Family Chao is an oftentimes funny and sometimes sad portrait of a Chinese American family who runs that most ubiquitous of institutions: the Chinese restaurant. With nuance and slyness, wit and empathy, Chang turns the desires and deceits of one unhappy family into a moving and compelling saga of that classic American illness: ambition." - Viet Thanh Nguyen, author of The Committed