About the Book:
For fans of Hustlers and How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia, the story of two Asian American women who band together to grow a counterfeit handbag scheme into a global enterprise–an incisive and glittering blend of fashion, crime, and friendship from the author of Bury What We Cannot Take and Soy Sauce for Beginners.
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.
Fabulous! Full of surprises. Of course I was intrigued by the premise of this book. A scheme to sell counterfeit designer handbags? Sounds like an unputdownable story to me!
What seems to be just another female con artist story is actually so much more. Ava is an unfulfilled and unhappy new mother with a Stanford law degree and lots of restlessness. Her marriage does not seem to be on very stable ground either so when her old college roommate Winnie re-enters her life with an illegal scheme, Ava gets pulled in.
The author offers a darkly humorous book about not only the counterfeit bag trade from China, but the norms and expectations of modern Chinese-American families. Ava has always been the dutiful daughter, student, wife and mother, but where has it gotten her? Winnie plays on these insecurities and soon she and Ava are touring factories in China where many counterfeit designer goods are made. I never knew what a “super-fake” was but I do now.
Ava knows she is playing a dangerous game but every time she tries to get out, Winnie comes up with a good reason for her to stay in the game. I loved the format of the book and the audiobook was a perfect way to listen to this very smart and fast-paced story. Catherine Ho lends her very convincing voice to this entertaining and thought-provoking book.
I found the exploration of the huge counterfeit bag industry absolutely fascinating. The author raises some very interesting and provocative issues including exploitation of workers to what makes an item counterfeit. This is a stylish and well-written story that has already been optioned for television. Can’t wait!
(Thanks to the publisher who provided an audiobook listening copy via libro.fm in exchange for an honest review.)