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.
Seemingly, what you see is what you get — a con artist story, a pop-feminist caper, a fashionable romp. Fun! Pass the popcorn. Except nothing in this novel is what it seems ... Make no mistake, Counterfeit is an entertaining, luxurious read — but beneath its glitz and flash, it is also a shrewd deconstruction of the American dream and the myth of the model minority ... Readers love a twist and I won’t spoil this one by revealing too much, but Chen is up to something innovative and subversive here. She uses the device to flip Asian and Asian American stereotypes inside out and upside down ... You can decide for yourself whether Counterfeit is a tale of genuine American gumption or not. Either way, you must grapple with the question: If the dream itself is a false promise, why not achieve it through fakery?
[A] lively caper ... Chen’s third novel is a breezy read with unexpected twists, carried along by Ava’s seemingly heartfelt narration as she confesses her involvement to a police detective. Along the way, there are plenty of fascinating details about luxury goods and the shadow industry of fake designer products ... Chen...is a versatile, savvy plotter, and Counterfeit readers will be easily drawn into this morally complicated world.