The Opposite of Fate by Amy Tan

Date of Publication: 2003, Putnam

Number of Pages: 398

Synopsis: Born into a family who believed in fate, Amy Tan has always looked for alternative ways to make sense of the world. And now, in The Opposite of Fate, her first book of nonfiction, she shares her thoughts on how she escaped the expectations and curses of her past, and created her own destiny.

Amy Tan tells of her family, of the ghosts that inhabit her computer, of specters of illness, ski trips, the pliability of memory, rock and roll, and the twinned mysteries of faith and fate. Whether she is remembering arguments with her mother in suburban California, recounting her trips to an outdoor market in Shanghai, or describing her love-hate relationship with the CliffsNotes edition of her first book, The Joy Luck Club, her recollections offer an intimate glimpse of a best-selling writer whose own life story is as magical and hopeful as her fiction.

With the same spirit and humor that characterize her beloved novels, Amy Tan presents a refreshing antidote to the world-weariness and uncertainties we face today, contemplating how things happen – in her life and beyond – but always returning to the question of fate and its opposites: the choices, charms, influences, attitudes, and lucky accidents that shape us all. ~From inside cover of book

Review: I am reviewing this book after reading it for the second time, so it should already be obvious that I enjoyed it. Amy Tan, one of my favorite American writers, finally gives her fans an inside look at what inspires and drives her story-telling. All writers are influenced by their own experiences, but none have a wealth of tragedies and settings in their lives to pull from. Tan has lived through the deaths of her older brother and her father, within a year of each other, and many years later, of her mother. She has lost friends to tragic accidents, illness, and even murder. She has lived in San Francisco, New York (which is where she was on September 11, 2001), and Montreux, Switzerland. She performs in a rock and roll band with Stephen King, Dave Berry, and Barbara Kingslover. She suffers from Lyme disease, which has caused her to experience hallucinations, overwhelming fatigue, and body vibrations. In short, she has not lived a normal life. It has been filled with mysticism and unexplainable coincidences.

Perhaps most valuable to her fans who are also writers, are her thoughts on writing. She describes her experience making the movie of The Joy Luck Club, she talks about reviewers, the students who interpret her writing for term papers, and how she wrote the dreaded Second Book. For fans of Amy Tan, this book is a definite must-read. For those who are interested in reading about the writing process, about a woman’s real relationship with her mother, or just about an interesting life, this book should be perfect.

Rating: 9/10

Reviewed by Sarah

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