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Content warnings for Counterfeit provided at the bottom of this post, for those who would find them useful. You can find further details on content warnings here.
A brief note because this didn’t deserve its own post, but I’m back after finally finally finishing my dissertation. I took a couple weeks off while I tied up the loose ends because education trumps all else. Anyways! Back to our regularly scheduled programming.
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.
This book was a blast. You know, I never really cared about handbags before — didn’t understand the whole “designer” thing — but now I’m intrigued and informed. Honestly, I halfway wonder if the author has run a counterfeit scheme herself — at the very least, she did her research. (Should I give up blogging and start a counterfeit handbag scheme instead?)
You should especially pick this one up if you are as fascinated by morally-gray characters as I am. I’m very into a well-written villain/protagonist crossbreed (I just made that term up and I like it), and Counterfeit has multiple.
Ava herself is a wonderful character. Besides the mom part (I’ll get to that in a bit), her relationship feels real. It’s a balance of good and bad, and perfectly encapsulates the push-pull of a failing marriage. Admittedly, I’ve never been in a failing marriage before, so I’m basing this entirely off of the sympathy and understanding I developed for Ava.
Right, the mom thing. Again, maybe this is because I haven’t experienced it, but I really dislike mommy culture. Part of the book deals with Ava’s plight to get her kid into a “good” school and I was beyond exasperated at the competitiveness of it all. This isn’t a complaint about the book’s quality itself — I’m sure there are those that will find it much more relatable, but I am not one of those people.
Without giving too much away, there is a very interesting change partway through the story. Not a “twist” exactly, but . . . the story gets deep. It was a wonderful change of pace and added another side to things. I’ll reiterate: morally-gray characters, y’all.
Let me know if you’re planning to grab this one next time you head to your local indie!
Counterfeit by Kirstin Chen was released June 7, 2022. Although William Morrow & Company and libro.fm provided me with a free review copy, this did not in any way affect my review.
CW: Mental illness, abuse (physical, mental, emotional, verbal, sexual), incest, death or dying, kidnapping and other events that might be consider traumatic, pregnancy/childbirth