- Kirstin Chen


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.



The first thing I noticed was the eyes.


Reminiscent of reading only one half of a police interrogation transcript, the biggest thing that holds Counterfeit back from being as good as it should be is the writing style. I was so relieved when we finally started to hear from Winnie, but it was over so quickly that instead of improving my experience, it only made the rest of the book feel worse by comparison.
Honestly, it would have been more enjoyable to see these two cocky women think they had everything planned, only to watch it fall apart around them. That would have been a hard story to tell from such a limited perspective, though
We’re expected to take everything these women say at face value, and their narration is incredibly superficial. No one digs deeper for motivation or to explore other characters. Considering the diversity of the characters and, I would assume, the attempt to tell a twist on the immigrant experience and what it means to be American, Chen held back from truly addressing or exploring this topic.

Three stars is average for me, and that’s exactly how Counterfeit felt – a few interesting moments drowned in an ocean of mediocrity.


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