“Start being honest with yourself about how you feel.”
Before I start my review — reading the final page of ‘Last Tang Standing’ had made me wonder. Why is the millennial generation continuously looking for an answer among the life decisions they’ve previously made? When our parents or grandparents were younger, they would just decide something and go through with it.
However, millennials (like me) have always experienced a mini-identity crisis. To reflect whether their prior decisions in life were correct? And whether they are content with the decision that has been made?
Yeah — ‘Last Tang Standing’ is another ‘Eat, Pray Love’. Except that the book did not begin with the main character realising that what she had planned for her life was not what she desired.
The book was compared to “Crazy Rich Asians” because of how closely it portrayed Singapore’s rich and elite. However, Andrea, the main character, did not come from a wealthy family. Her auntie, on whom they leaned throughout, was the person closest to her. Hence, most of the details in the book are about her family’s struggles as she grows up. Therefore, I believe that this book cannot be compared to Kevin Kwan’s.
Nonetheless, this book stands on its own. Its plot may be similar to that of other popular fiction, yet it has its own unique traits. Written by an Asian, Lauren Ho, with settings in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, she brilliantly depicts the traditional Chinese culture seen in both countries.
From stereotyping to being kiasu (hate to lose) to comparing each other, any Asian growing up in either country might relate to this book. Otherwise, those unfamiliar with Asian culture might learn in depth about how families and friends interact with one another.
The book began as a comedy and finished with a romantic scene. The plot seemed a little slow at first, but things started to pick up towards the end.
The story was written as Andrea’s diary, so expect some drunken, misspelt words from the character herself during her lowest moments — something that added to the book’s authenticity. As though we were reading someone’s deepest thoughts.
Andrea, every Asian parents’ dream child, was on her way to achieving her life ambition when she had a sudden realisation. Should she continue to pursue her goals? Was it worth it? With her Louis Vouiton bags in line — was it a wise decision to quit?
At age 33, Andrea also realised that despite her hard work, she had fallen off the dating game (though engage once with a man who was not compatible with her). She met two men halfway through the book, after a few Tinder matches.
One who, while being considerably older than her, could give her the tai tai (wife of wealthy men who do not need to work) life. And another, who might be able to relate to her better because they are both of the same generation. Though the latter could not bring her life’s comfort, the former could.
And now she’s been thrown under the bus once more, with a career path to choose and work on, as well as two men to wisely choose between. This is why the book was only interesting during its climax in the middle.
I didn’t really grasp the book till the very end. It was more than just a romantic comedy. Rather, it was an enlightening book about discovering oneself (yourself) within the context of provided opportunities and boundaries.
Just like in reality, the wrong decision, regardless of how wise it appears at the time, can lead to regret, as Andrea’s mother explained regarding her marriage to her father.
Lauren also wrote extensively on Andrea’s cousin and best friend, Linda. Linda is another interesting character in the book, with a variety of moral stories from which readers can learn. Linda, like Andrea, had a rough start but eventually discovered who she is.
The plot lines and climax are predictable, but the details in between are not. ‘Last Tang Standing’ is full of varied situations, whether it’s a good laugh, a sad occasion, or a thought-provoking time.
But how do I really feel about the book? Sure, the cover and title drew my attention. But it was the relatable challenges that kept me going. Overall, it was an enjoyable read, especially for people who are still unsure of who they are. It’s like reading ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ with a longer story about self-regret and discovering what life truly is in the right place, with the right person.