> Zed Book Club / A Shocking Death Kicks Off Kevin Kwan’s Jet-Setting Rom-Com, ‘Lies & Weddings’

Photos: candalabra ( Coral222/Getty Images); wedding bands (Burazin/Getty Images); 'Lies and Weddings' by Kevin Kwan

> Bookshelf

A Shocking Death Kicks Off Kevin Kwan’s Jet-Setting Rom-Com, ‘Lies & Weddings’

In a Q&A with the 'Crazy Rich Asians' author, he schools us on classic literature and explains how the one per cent aren't always as wealthy as they seem  / BY Rosemary Counter / May 28th, 2024

Because you’re no doubt curious, international bestselling author Kevin Kwan is not crazy rich, per se, but more crazy-rich adjacent, thanks to his novel-worthy upbringing. The 50-year-old Los Angeles-based writer of Crazy Rich Asians was born in Singapore, the great-grandson of the founding director of the country’s oldest bank. His family had servants and he mingled with old establishment money until – plot twist! – his father relocated to Houston, Texas, where he decided to give Kwan and his two brothers a normal, middle-class life.

At 11, Kwan reluctantly learned how to mow the lawn and wash dishes, but all this ultimately underscored the other half of his winning formula: The deeply American notion that individuals should follow their hearts and passions and a person’s value doesn’t come from their last name and bank account. The tension between East and West, rich and poor, old and new is at the heart of all Kwan’s compulsively readable books, including his newest, Lies & Weddings


Kevin Kwan


The heartfelt rom-com, reminiscent of Four Weddings and a Funeral and My Best Friend’s Wedding, features long-time best friends at four impossibly swanky weddings (one in an ice castle, and another in hot air balloons). Rufus and Eden are madly in love, but Rufus is the eldest son of the Earl of Greshamsbury and Lady Arabella, a Chinese tiger-mom intent on marrying her son to a similarly rich and well-born heiress. That is, not Eden, a mere doctor who is firmly against grotesque displays of wealth. 

Where does Kwan stand on the matter? Somewhere in the middle, naturally, as his satire is as much a biting critique of the “richer than God” set as it is an invitation into their fabulous world. With the addition of delicious menus and recipes, gossipy exposés from a fictional tabloid, juicy text-message transcripts and insider footnotes, Lies & Weddings darts around the world from Hawaii to London to Marrakech to Beverly Hills and back again. Zoomer caught up with the author on his book tour in Toronto for a fun chat about over-the-top weddings, chandeliers versus candelabras, classic literature and fake pearls. 


Kevin Kwam
Kwan grew up in Singapore brunching with princesses and surrounded by servants, but his father moved the family to Texas when he was 11, where he had to learn to do the dishes and mow the lawn. Photo: Courtesy of the author


Rosemary Counter: Your book made me feel like I just attended an entire wedding season in one weekend. 

Kevin Kwan: Haha! I hope that’s a good thing? Depending on whether you like weddings or not, you might love or hate this book. 

RC: So, do you like weddings?  

KK: In small doses. I really only go to weddings now of family and really really close friends. I had to issue a policy, because it was getting out of control. Unless you know at least five people, they’re just not fun. 

RC: I think it’s fun to know either everybody or nobody. I’ve never been to one in a hot air balloon though! Have you? 

KK: I’ve only seen that on a video. The craziest wedding I’ve ever been to took place in a Mayan rainforest. The bride and groom had met and fallen in love there, so we all trekked out into the jungle. They lit up the trees and had chefs cooking around open hearths and people with big buckets of lit copal, a rock that lets out this beautiful incense. So the whole scene was this big foggy rainforest party with music blasting. It felt other-worldly.

RC: So many gorgeous weddings in this book, and yet we start with a bloody impalement via chandelier. 

KK: It was a candelabra, not a chandelier, which would have to fall on you. You can only get impaled by a candelabra. I was absolutely trying to shock you, because that scene sets off an enormous chain of events that are still unfolding decades later. It’s a butterfly effect that brings us the whole adventure of the book. 

RC: When you’re writing, do you start right there and write outwards? 

KK: I do. I write chronologically and nothing’s mapped out. I just start writing and let it come to me. Now, this book is inspired by Doctor Thorne [by Anthony Trollope], so I have my major plot points already there, but then I veer way off course and make it my own. I know a death has to happen, for example, but I added the candelabra. 

RC: Are your other books based on classics? I didn’t even realize! 

KK: Yes, the new trilogy I started in 2020 began with Sex and Vanity, which was inspired by A Room with a View [by E.M. Forster]. These books are my homage to my favourites of classic literature. The third and last will also be based on a classic, but I can’t reveal it now. I have to write it and make sure it’s working before I start telling people. It’s not Pride and Prejudice, I’ll tell you that. It’s more obscure than that. 

RC: You seem to have so much fun getting creative with stuff other than straight copy: a gossip magazine article, wedding invitation, fancy menu.

KK: I basically write for myself, to be honest, so all these are a way for me to cheat the process and make it fun for me. My goal is to keep myself interested in hopes the reader will stay interested. I like to not know what I’m going to write tomorrow. For me, that’s a good thing. 

RC: I’d think for most writers, that’d be a terrifying thing. 

 KK: I don’t want to be predictable. It’s all about what inspires me on the day, and if that’s a menu, I accept the process and write that. The footnotes are a whole different layer again; they inform the story, but they don’t take away from it. If you want to ignore the footnotes, because you don’t care what year the house was built in or whatever, you absolutely can. But if you’re into that stuff, which I believe would take away from the momentum if they were in the actual text, then they’re there for you. If something’s interesting enough to me that I’d want to know, I include it.

RC: Tell me about research for this book. Tell me you went to Hawaii, Venice, Morocco…

KK: To make it authentic, I have to see a place with my own eyes and make sure the things that happen in my books are possible. So, I had to go to all these places. I had to eat all the food and test the mattresses. It’s an occupational hazard, really. I went to Hawaii, where I was inspired, then back to L.A., then Venice and London. I didn’t go to Morocco, though I’d been there previously. But mostly I was in L.A., writing. 

RC: Talk to me about walking a fine line between buying into this world and criticizing it. Do you lean one way or the other?

KK: That’s satire for you right there. It lets you look at something, show it and reveal it, but it’s up to you to buy into whether it’s terrible or not. On a personal level, I find gross displays of wealth obscene. I’d hope that comes through. Certainly the characters that are more heroic to me are the good doctors like Eden. 

RC: I can’t explain it or prove it, but this book has shades of My Best Friend’s Wedding in it. Have you seen it? 

KK: I love that movie! That and Four Weddings and a Funeral. But Eden and the Julia Roberts character are very different. Eden’s not trying to sabotage anything, though there’s plenty of sabotage going on. My books are always good fun. I’m trying to take people on a ride, but also I try to inspire people to understand my characters whose lives are so, so different from theirs. My first three books were about Asians in Asia, and the next three are about Asians in the rest of the world. These characters are really caught between both, and trying to figure it all out and accept who they are. Hopefully that’s in there too, not just all champagne, all the time. 

RC: It is, but I like the champagne part, too. I think I’d be great at being crazy rich. 

KK: They have all their own problems, of course. There’s a lot of family and duty and carrying on the family name. Many of these fortunes, meanwhile, aren’t real. They’re all leveraged, they’re financed by other people, they’re in huge debt. They aren’t always as they seem. 

RC: Like those pearls that keep popping up! I sense a metaphor there. 

KK: You got that, did you? Good for you. They’re real, I think, but Eden tells people they’re fake, because she’s not out to impress people. Actually, she tells some people they’re real and others they’re fake. Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter. They’re just like Eden. Is she a bargain-basement accessory or is she a treasure in the end? Dot dot dot.

This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.


Alice Munro, One of Canada’s Literary Masters, Dies at 92Alice Munro's career spanned over four decades, during which time she earned a multitude of literary awards, including a Nobel Prize nearing the end of her writing career. 

American writer V. V. Ganeshananthan wins the US$150,000 Carol Shields Prize for FictionHer novel, 'Brotherless Night,' was chosen over the work of four finalists, including 'Birnam Wood' by Eleanor Catton

2024 Amazon Canada First Novel Award Shortlist AnnouncedThe award, which was founded in 1976, offers a $60,000 prize for the winner.

Three Canadian Authors Shortlisted for the US$150,000 Carol Shields Prize for FictionClaudia Dey, Eleanor Catton and Janika Oza are finalists for the largest cash prize celebrating American and Canadian women writers

Donald Sutherland, 88, to Detail His Journey to Hollywood Fame in Long-Awaited MemoirThe Canuck screen legend's first-ever autobiography will hit Canadian bookshelves on Nov. 12.

Camilla Leads Miniature Book Initiative to Celebrate 100th Anniversary of the Queen’s Dolls’ HouseThe miniature book collection includes handwritten tomes by Sir Tom Stoppard, Dame Jacqueline Wilson, Sir Ben Okri and other well-known authors

2024 Giller Prize: Noah Richler, Kevin Chong and Molly Johnson Among Jury MembersAuthor Noah Richler is chairing the jury for this year's Giller Prize, an award's body his father literary icon Mordecai Richler helped launch in 1994.

Queen Camilla to Offer Weekly Reading Recommendations in New Queen’s Reading Room PodcastThe Queen's Reading Room Podcast will feature Her Majesty's book picks as well as literary discussions with authors and celebrities every week.

2023 Booker Prize: Irish Writer Paul Lynch Wins For Dystopian ‘Prophet Song’Canadian Booker Prize jury chair Esi Edugyan called the novel a "a triumph of emotional storytelling, bracing and brave."

Sarah Bernstein’s ‘Study for Obedience’ Wins 2023 Scotiabank Giller PrizeThe author, who gave birth to a daughter 10 days ago, accepted the award remotely from her home in the Scottish Highlands

Governor General’s Literary Awards: Anuja Varghese’s ‘Chrysalis’ Among This Year’s WinnersEach of the 14 writers, illustrators and translators will receive a prize of $25,000

Giller Prize Winner Suzette Mayr Among Finalists Shortlisted for 2023 Governor General’s Literary AwardsThe 14 winners, who will each receive a prize of $25,000, will be announced Nov. 8

Five Authors Shortlisted for This Year’s $100,000 Scotiabank Giller PrizeDionne Irving and Kevin Chong are among the finalists who "probe what it means to be human, to survive, and to be who we are"

Norway’s Jon Fosse Wins Nobel Literature Prize for Giving “Voice to the Unsayable”The author's work has been translated into more than 40 languages, and there have been more than 1,000 different productions of his plays.

Scotiabank Giller Prize Longlist Recognizes 12 Authors Who Demonstrate “the Power of Human Imagination”The 2023 longlist includes the prize's 2005 winner David Bergen and debut novelist Deborah Willis. 

Duke and Duchess of Sussex Buy Film Rights to Canadian Author Carley Fortune’s ‘Meet Me at the Lake’Prince Harry and his wife Meghan have purchased the movie rights to the bestselling romantic novel, which was published in May this year.

Booker Prize Longlist ‘Defined by its Freshness’ as Nominees RevealedEsi Edugyan, chair of the 2023 judges, said each of the 13 novels "cast new light on what it means to exist in our time."

Barack Obama Releases His 2023 Summer Reading ListThe list includes the latest novel by Canadian-born New Zealand author Eleanor Catton.

David Suzuki Takes Inspiration From His Own Grandchildren for New Kid’s Book ‘Bompa’s Insect Expedition’The book features Suzuki and two of his grandchildren exploring the insect population in their own backyard.

Milan Kundera, Author of ‘The Unbearable Lightness of Being’, Dies at 94Kundera won global accolades for the way he depicted themes and characters that floated between the mundane reality of everyday life and the lofty world of ideas.

Cormac McCarthy, Pulitzer Prize-Winning Dark Genius of American Literature, Dead at 89McCarthy won the Pulitzer Prize for his 2006 novel 'The Road.'

Remembering the Life and Loves of Literary Bad Boy Martin AmisThe legendary British author has died at 73. His absence will be keenly felt, but Amis leaves behind a book shelf’s worth of novels, including 'London Fields', 'Money' and 'Success', filled with shambolic anti-heroes raising a finger at society. 

Sophie Grégoire Trudeau to Publish Two Books Related to Mental Health and Wellness With Penguin Random House CanadaThe upcoming releases include a wellness book for adults and a picture book for children, which will roll out over the next two years.

Queen Camilla Celebrated Her Love of Books by Having Some Embroidered on Her Coronation GownThe Queen's coronation gown also featured tributes to her children, grandchildren and rescue dogs embroidered into it.

Better Late Than Never: Gabriel Garcia Márquez’s Unpublished Novel Set for Release in 2024'En Agosto Nos Vemos' or 'We'll See Each Other in August' was deemed by the late author's family to be too important to stay hidden

End of an Era: Eleanor Wachtel leaves CBC Radio’s ‘Writers & Company’ After More Than Three Decades on the AirAfter a career interviewing what she describes as the "finest minds in the world," the long-time radio host says she's ready to begin a new chapter.

Canadian Independent Bookstore Day Features Deals, Contests and ReadingsOn Saturday, every book purchased at an indie store qualifies you to enter the Book Lovers Contest, with a chance to win gift cards worth up to $1,000

Translation Project Will Bring Literature From the South Asian Continent to English-Speaking AudiencesThe SALT project aims to translate and publish 40 works by authors from Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka

The Book Thief: An Italian Man’s Guilty Plea Ends a Caper That Puzzled the Literary World for YearsFilippo Bernardini’s elaborate phishing scam netted 1,000 unpublished manuscripts by prominent authors including Margaret Atwood and Ian McEwan

The Late Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison Is Honoured with an American StampThe Obamas and Oprah Winfrey pay tribute to the writer whose poetic interpretations of the African American experience gained a world-wide audience

Five Canadian Writers Make the Long List for the Inaugural Carol Shields Prize for FictionThe US$150,000 English-language literary award for female and nonbinary writers redresses the inequality of women in the publishing world

The Furry Green Grump is Back in a Sequel to “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!”Dr. Seuss Enterprises will publish “How the Grinch Lost Christmas!” in September

Chris Hadfield to Publish a Sequel to His Blockbuster Debut, “The Apollo Murders,” on Oct. 10"The Defector” brings the Cold War intrigue from space to Earth as the Soviets and Americans race to develop fighter jets

Prince Harry’s ‘Spare’ Continues to Break Worldwide RecordsThe book also seems to have put a dent in the popularity of members of the Royal Family — including the Prince and Princess of Wales.

Prince Harry’s Memoir Breaks U.K. Sales Record On First Day of ReleaseThe publisher of the new memoir, 'Spare", says it had sold 400,000 copies so far across hardback, e-book and audio formats.

Barack Obama’s Favourite Books of 2022The former U.S. president’s 13 titles include Canadians Emily St. John Mandel and Kate Beaton, as well as tomes from Michelle Obama, George Saunders and Jennifer Egan

Here are the 5 Books on Bill Gates’ Holiday Reading ListThe billionaire philanthropist is giving hundreds of copies to little libraries around the world

Sheila Heti and Eli Baxter Among 2022 Governor General’s Literary Award WinnersToronto writer Sheila Heti took home the fiction award for 'Pure Colour,' a novel the GG peer assessment committee called "a work of genius."

Suzette Mayr Wins $100,000 Scotiabank Giller Prize for ‘The Sleeping Car Porter’The 2022 Giller Prize jury called Mayr's novel "alive and immediate — and eerily contemporary."

Writers’ Trust of Canada Awards: Authors Nicholas Herring, Dan Werb Nab Top PrizesThe Writers' Trust of Canada awards amounted to a combined monetary prize value of $270,000.

Bob Dylan Releases ‘The Philosophy of Modern Song,’ a Book of Essays Dissecting 66 Influential SongsIn his new book, Bob Dylan offers up both critique and historical insight into various musical recordings of the last century by a variety of popular artists.

Prince Harry’s Memoir ‘Spare’ Will Be Published in January 2023The long-awaited memoir will tell with "raw unflinching honesty" Prince Harry's journey from "trauma to healing", his publisher said on Thursday.

Sri Lankan Author Shehan Karunatilaka Wins 2022 Booker PrizeKarunatilaka won the prestigious prize on Monday for his second novel ‘The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida’, about a dead war photographer on a mission in the afterlife.

Canadian Council for the Arts Reveals Governor General’s Literary Awards FinalistsThe finalists for the Governor General's Literary Awards spotlight books in both the English and French language, as well as translated works.

New Penguin Random House Award Named After Michelle Obama Will Honour High School WritersMichelle Obama Award for Memoir will provide a $10,000 college scholarship to a graduating public school senior based on their autobiographical submission.

French Author Annie Ernaux, 82, Becomes First French Woman to Win Nobel Prize for LiteratureThe author said, of winning, that "I was very surprised ... I never thought it would be on my landscape as a writer."

Hilary Mantel, Award-Winning British Author of ‘Wolf Hall’ Trilogy, Dies at 70Wolf Hall, published in 2009, and its sequel Bring Up the Bodies, released three years later, both won the Booker Prize, an unprecedented win for two books in the same trilogy and making Mantel the first woman to win the award twice.

Prince William “Cannot Forgive” Prince Harry, According to ‘The New Royals’ Author Katie NichollPrince William “just cannot forgive his brother,” according to Katie Nicholl, author of 'The New Royals: Queen Elizabeth’s Legacy and the Future of the Crown.'

Five Finalists Announced for Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for NonfictionThe winner — to be announced on November 2 — will take home the annual $60,000 prize.

Peter Straub, Bestselling American Horror Writer, Dies at 79Friend and co-author Stephen King has said the author's 1979 book, "Ghost Story," is his favourite horror novel.

Rawi Hage, Billy-Ray Belcourt and Sheila Heti Make the 2022 Scotiabank Giller Prize Long ListThe jury read 138 books to choose 14 titles for the long list, one of which will win the $100,000 prize, one of the richest in Canadian literature

Salman Rushdie, Novelist Who Drew Death Threats, Is Stabbed at New York LectureThe Indian-born novelist who was ordered killed by Iran in 1989 because of his writing, was attacked before giving a talk on artistic freedom.

Raymond Briggs, Creator of Beloved Children’s Tale ‘The Snowman’, Dies at 88First published in 1978, the pencil crayon-illustrated wordless picture book sold more than 5.5 million copies around the world while a television adaption became a Christmas favourite in Britain and was nominated for an Oscar.

Canadian Author Emily St. John Mandel Makes Barack Obama’s 2022 Summer Reading ListObama's list includes everything from fiction to books on politics, cultural exploration and basketball.

Canadian Author Rebecca Eckler to Launch RE:books Publishing House Focused on Female Authors and Fun ReadsThe former National Post columnist says her tagline is ‘What’s read is good, and what’s good is read.’”

Brian Thomas Isaac’s “All the Quiet Places” wins $5,000 Indigenous Voices AwardThe B.C. author, a retired bricklayer, drew on his childhood growing up on the Okanagan Indian reserve for his coming-of-age story set in 1956

Canadian-American Author Ruth Ozeki Wins Women’s Book Prize for “The Book of Form and Emptiness”The UK judges said her fourth novel, inspired in part by the Vancouver Public Library, contained "sparkling writing, warmth, intelligence, humour and poignancy."

The Bill Gates Summer Reading List Includes a Sci-Fi Novel On Gender Inequality Suggested by His DaughterBill Gates' summer reading list includes fiction and non-fiction titles that cover gender equality, political polarization and climate change.

American novelist Joshua Cohen wins the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for “The Netanyahus”The 2022 Pulitzer prizes include this satirical look at identity politics, focused on the father of former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at a crucial time in the Jewish state’s history

Margaret Atwood, Alice Munro Among Canadian Authors Recognized in Commemorative Reading List Marking Queen’s Platinum JubileeThe authors are among six Canadian scribes included on the The Big Jubilee Read list.

Queen Elizabeth II’s Aide Reveals Details of Life in Royal Pandemic Lockdown in New Addition to BookAngela Kelly, who's worked for the Queen for 20 years, discusses everything from cutting the Queen's hair to "the light and laughter that was shared ... even in the darkest moments."

New Leonard Cohen Story Collection, ‘A Ballet of Lepers,’ Set for October ReleaseThe collection features a novel, short stories and a radio play written between 1956 and 1961.

Archived Letters Reveal How Toni Morrison Helped MacKenzie Scott Meet Future Husband Jeff BezosBezos hired Scott at the hedge fund where he worked after receiving a recommendation from Morrison. Shortly thereafter, the pair married and Scott helped Bezos launch Amazon.

Prince Harry’s Memoir is Set to Rock the MonarchyFriends say the California-based royal got a million-pound book deal to write "an intimate take on his feeling about the family."

European Jewish Congress Asks Publisher to Pull Anne Frank BookThe Congress says 'The Betrayal of Anne Frank' has "deeply hurt the memory of Anne Frank, as well as the dignity of the survivors and the victims of the Holocaust."

Canadian Author Details Anne Frank Cold-Case Investigation That Named Surprise Suspect in Her Family’s Betrayal in New BookAhead of the 75th anniversary of the publication of Frank's 'The Diary of a Young Girl' in June, a team that included a retired FBI agent and around 20 historians, criminologists and data specialists identified a relatively unknown figure as a leading suspect in revealing her family's hideout.

Man Who Tricked Authors Into Handing Over Unpublished Manuscripts Arrested by FBI in New YorkFilippo Bernardini, an employee of a well known publication house, has been arrested for stealing hundreds of unpublished manuscripts.

Hollywood Legend Betty White Has a Last Laugh in New Biographic Comic BookThe creators of the biographical comic book have released similar books about Hollywood legends like Carrie Fisher, Lucille Ball, David Bowie and Elizabeth Taylor.

Barack Obama Reveals His List of Books That Left “A Lasting Impression” in 2021Obama's favourite 2021 reads include two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning author Colson Whitehead's 'Harlem Shuffle' and 'Klara and the Sun,' by Nobel Prize-winning author Kazuo Ishiguro

“Interview With the Vampire” Author Anne Rice Dies at 80 — Tributes Pour in From Stuart Townsend and OthersThe author, who was best known for her work in gothic fiction, died on Saturday evening as a result of complications from a stroke.

Norma Dunning wins $25,000 Governor General’s English fiction prize for ‘Tainna’The Edmonton-based Inuk writer explores themes of displacement, loneliness and spirituality in six short stories

Omar El Akkad wins $100,000 Giller prize for “What Strange Paradise”The former Globe and Mail reporter, who published "American War" to acclaim in 2017, tackles the global migrant refugee crisis in his second novel

South African Author Damon Galgut Wins the Booker Prize For ‘The Promise’Galgut received nominations for his 2003 and 2010 works before finally taking home the prize this year. 

Hollywood Legend Paul Newman Discusses Life, Acting and Aging Gracefully in Newly Discovered MemoirPublishers of the newly discovered memoir say the Hollywood legend wrote the book in the 1980s in response to the relentless media attention he received during that time.

Here’s What You Need to Know About the Toronto International Festival of AuthorsDirector Roland Gulliver lands in Toronto to open his second, much-expanded virtual festival with more than 200 events

Tanzanian Novelist Gurnah Wins 2021 Nobel Prize in Literature for Depicting the Impact of Colonialism and Refugee StoriesGurnah, 72, is only the second writer from sub-Saharan Africa to win one of the world's most prestigious literary awards

Miriam Toews Garners Third Giller Prize Nomination for “Fight Night” after Shortlist AnnouncedSophomore efforts from novelists Omar El Akkad and Jordan Tannahill join debut books from Cheluchi Onyemelukwe-Onuobia and Angélique Lalonde

Tina Brown’s New Book, ‘The Palace Papers’, Covers the Royal Family’s Reinvention After Diana’s Tragic DeathTina Brown's sequel to her 2007 release 'The Diana Chronicles' is set to hit shelves April 12, 2022. 

Audible.ca Releases Andrew Pyper’s Exclusive Audiobook “Oracle” For New Plus Catalogue LaunchThe thriller about a psychic FBI detective is one of 12,000 titles now available for free to members

Barack Obama and Bruce Springsteen to Release Book Based On Their “Renegades” PodcastThe new book will feature a collection of candid, intimate and entertaining conversations

Prince Harry Will Publish a Memoir in Late 2022Harry says he's writing the book "not as the prince I was born but as the man I have become."


Sign Up for the Weekly Book Club Newsletter