Last Tang Standing: A Cathartic Read For Anyone Who Is Single AF In Singapore
Ah, dating. As if finding a suitable match weren’t exhausting enough, some of us are saddled with app exhaustion, parents begging for grandchildren, and, oh yeah, a global pandemic. No wonder self-care has become such a necessity.
But with all the personal time that #StayHome has afforded me, I’ve numbed out from watching too many dramas on Netflix. So in a desperate bid for some distraction/brain cell revival, I binge-read Lauren Ho’s debut novel, described as 'Bridget Jones meets Crazy Rich Asians’ and found that it was just the glamorous, glossy romp I needed amidst the tedium of swiping and scrolling.
The story follows Andrea Tang, a 33-year-old Malaysian lawyer living in Singapore. She owns a condo on Cairnhill, is on track to making law partner at her firm, and routinely grabs drinks with her gang of glamorous friends. But alas, she is single, and thus a loser in the eyes of her Malaysian-Chinese family. The opening scene takes place at a Chinese New Year reunion dinner, where she and a cousin scheme to invent fake boyfriends just to appease their meddling, angbao-withholding relatives. It’s super cringe-worthy, but also very entertaining when it’s happening to someone else.
Like Bridget Jones, Andrea tells her story through a diary. She’s also self-deprecating, sarcastic, and enjoys her tipple. Along the way, she meets a lively entrepreneur, Eric Deng, who seems 100 percent into her and is incredibly wealthy, i.e. marriage material. But if he’s so perfect, why do her thoughts keep wandering to her acerbic, definitely NOT family-approved, colleague, Suresh Aditparan?
The setup might sound pretty standard, but Andrea’s voice is so fresh – and at times, so vulnerable – that it’s easy to blaze through this on a #StayHome Sunday. Social topics such as interracial relationships, filial piety, ageism, and navigating socioeconomic differences are dealt mostly through groan-inducing mishaps, with an occasional dash of tenderness. The bulk of the story takes place in Andrea’s CBD office, where she routinely stays past dinner just to outdo Suresh in workplace facetime. And for everyone who raged about the similarly-glossy Singapore Social's lack of colloquialisms, there’s plenty of Singlish in Last Tang Standing. Details like this make an otherwise stylised story feel grounded, as if it were coming from the mouth of our smartest gal pal.
Ho, a Malaysian ‘reformed legal counsel’ who has lived in the United Kingdom, France and Luxembourg, and most recently, Singapore, has written the perfect tome for Quarantine Summer. We’re only sorry that it – the book, not quarantine – had to end. Movie adaptation please!