COUNTERFEIT by Kirstin Chen

My reading slump has sadly persisted, but did manage to find a few books that have held my attention this month. One was Counterfeit by Kirstin Chen. It’s about an unfulfilled stay-at-home mom named Ava with a challenging toddler and a distracted husband. She graduated from Stanford and used to be a corporate lawyer until she couldn’t juggle work and parenting anymore. When Counterfeit opens, Ava has been contacted by Winnie, her freshman roommate at Stanford, who has been out of her life for two decades. Winnie finds Ava at her most vulnerable, with a risky proposition: join her counterfeit handbag business. Straight arrow Ava soon finds herself embroiled in an illegal operation that threatens her marriage and her future.

Why I picked it up: I’ve had Counterfeit in my sights all summer. Right time, right book.

The story is told through both women’s perspectives, with Ava’s sections spoken directly to a detective investigating the bag scheme. There were several things that worked for me here – the description of the bag scheme itself, the differences between the two women (one born in America into comfortable surroundings, one a Chinese immigrant facing a lot of obstacles), the way Winnie manipulates Ava into joining her illegal endeavors. It isn’t a terribly deep book, but there is more heft to it than I expected. I don’t know anything about the world of designer handbags, and I can’t speak to whether the scheme was even realistic, but I found it fascinating. The dialogue was realistic and the story flowed well. There are some loose ends and a few things that don’t really hold up, but overall I found this to be a fun, addictive read and it held my attention, which a lot of books haven’t lately!

I listened to Counterfeit on audio. It was narrated by Catherine Ho, whose tight, precise delivery was perfect for Ava. She did a nice job with Winnie too, conveying her desperation as well as at her skill with deception. I definitely recommend the audiobook.

Counterfeit was the 45th book of 2022.