At thirty-three, Andrea Tang is living the dream: she has a successful career as a lawyer, a posh condo, and a clutch of fun-loving friends who are always in the know about Singapore’s hottest clubs and restaurants. All she has to do is make partner at her law firm and she will have achieved everything she (and her mother) has ever worked for. So what if she’s poised to be the last unmarried member of her generation of the Tang clan? She doesn’t need a man to feel fulfilled, no matter what her meddling relatives have to say about it.
But for a dutiful Chinese-Malaysian daughter, the weight of familial expectations is hard to ignore. And so are the men life keeps throwing in Andrea’s path. Men like Suresh Aditparan, her annoyingly attractive rival for partner and the last man she should be spending time with, and Eric Deng, a wealthy entrepreneur whose vision for their future is more lavish than she could have imagined. With her workplace competition growing ever more intense, her friends bringing dramas of their own to her door, and her family scrutinizing her every romantic prospect, Andrea finds herself stretched to the breaking point. And she can’t help but wonder: In the endless tug-of-war between pleasing others and pleasing herself, is there room for everyone to win?
Last Tang Standing is an entertaining whirlwind of a novel, and the fact that it’s likened to Crazy Rich Asians and Bridget Jones Diary is definitely apt. The novel follows Andrea as she navigates the pressures from her mother and extended family who want her to get married asap to her goal of making partner in her high profile law firm, all the while battling a growing attraction to her colleague and rival, Suresh. As her life gets more and more complicated, Andrea is forced to choose what she really wants in life and decide who she really is.
I’ll say off the bat, I really needed a book like this at the time I read it, something funny, light but which also had substance and a compelling story and Last Tang Standing checked all those boxes. I appreciated that while humour was a huge element of the novel, that’s not all it was and there were some serious and meaningful topics explored like infidelity, death of a parent, familial pressures and more. I also enjoyed the way the diary format is used within the book and how this allows for some really funny sidebars and for a reader to really be able to see Andrea’s unfiltered thoughts and feelings.
One of the biggest draws of this novel is the slow burn romance between Andrea and Suresh and it was so well done. I loved how their dynamic starts off as a competitive, bickering one which gradually becomes a close friendship and then more. I also loved that despite coming from different backgrounds – Andrea is Chinese-Malaysian and Suresh is Indian – they have such a deep understanding of the pressures they both face from their families and cultures, and it brings them closer. I also liked how they connected on so many levels, from their profession to the fact that they’re still figuring out what they want to do with their lives. I really appreciated that this conversation exists within the book – that you can be in your thirties and still not have everything figured out, and that’s okay! (I’m in my twenties and I thought I’d have things figured out by now, spoiler alert: I certainly don’t!)
I also liked the cast of zany and diverse side characters we got to get to know, from Andrea’s best friend Linda who has her fair share of romantic woes, to their circle of friends who all come from different walks of life and make a slightly dysfunctional but sweet family. I really liked how unconditional and real Andrea and Linda’s friendship was and how they were always there for each other, but could also count on each other for a reality check and some tough love now and then.
As well as the romance which I liked, I thought the exploration of how society and familial expectations can pressure you into following a certain path is so important. Andrea is such a great example of this, despite being excellent at her job and pushing herself to the brink of exhaustion by clocking in extra hours and pleasing her mother through her prestige, being a lawyer isn’t her true passion. She’s great at what she does, there’s no doubting that but when she is faced with some home truths and seeing how other areas of her life have been affected by her workaholic lifestyle, she comes to the sobering realisation that she isn’t actually happy.
This whole conversation of sorts within the novel, is so on point. I think there are many people out there who will be able to relate to this feeling of finding a passion but having to put it on the back burner to pursue more ‘practical’ or ‘realistic’ jobs, which will enable a more stable income and lifestyle. I feel like this is especially prevalent within communities of colour, where many parents may have had difficult lives and just want better for their children, they don’t want them to struggle the way they had to and there’s so much more to it than just being written off as ‘overbearing’ parenting. I feel like Lauren Ho explores these parental expectations and relationships between different generations in a real and touching way.
Overall, Last Tang Standing was a funny and really enjoyable read and I think it’s the kind of book which would be perfect if you’re in the need of a little pick me up. I would love to see this being adapted onto the screen at some point, I feel like it would make a great rom com and I love the fact that it’s diverse, funny and heartwarming all at once.
Have you read Last Tang Standing yet? If so, what did you think? Are you into contemporary romances or fiction?
Until next time,