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The Opposite Of Fate by Amy Tan
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's review
Jul 15, 12

Read in November, 2003

Review published in the New Zealand Herald, December 2003

The Opposite of Fate
Amy Tan
(Flamingo, $39.99)

Reviewed by Philippa Jamieson

Read from cover to cover, or just dip in, but either way you'll probably get hooked. Amy Tan calls this a 'book of musings', and has pieced together a lively patchwork of essays, speeches, letters, journal excerpts and other writings into a candid, funny and highly readable memoir.
The Opposite of Fate builds up a picture of the major events and circumstances of Tan's life, including her upbringing in a Christian Chinese American family, the deaths of her father and brother when she was 14, a year in Switzerland as a teenager, trips to China, and her life as a writer.
Throughout, the book is imbued with the presence of her blunt mother, full of dire warnings for the young Amy: "Don't ever let boy kiss you. You do, you can't stop. Then you have baby. You put baby in garbage can. Police find you, put you in jail, then you life over, better just kill yourself."
Fate, ghosts and strange coincidence provide a spooky undertow, and there's plenty of action and incident: a murder, a flood, and a band called the Rock Bottom Remainders.
Those who love language, writing and literature will especially savour this volume. The author engages the reader right from the start with a piece titled 'The CliffNotes Version of My Life', about her life as a writer. 'Mother Tongue' explores growing up with parents speaking English as a second language. And with her characteristic wry, self-deprecating humour, Tan details the scriptwriting process for the movie made of her first novel, The Joy Luck Club.
Tan writes with refreshing openness, exposing her vulnerability and laughing at her mistakes. Whether writing about the dramatic and heartbreaking, or the humdrum, she has a knack for profound insight and great compassion. Highly recommended as an antidote to stress and other ills of the modern world.

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