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#41 The Opposite of Fate: Memories of a Writing Life by Amy Tan

I’ll admit it. I can be a bit of an Amy Tan fangirl. Ever since I first picked up The Joy Luck Club at fourteen, I’ve enjoyed her intensely readable writing style, depiction of mother-daughter relationships, memorable narrators, and faraway settings. I even found Saving Fish from Drowning, admittedly her weakest work, to have its own magic. As someone that tends to stay away from nonfiction and collections like The Opposite of Fate (Proof: I read only two collections of essays last year, that two more than the year before) it took me a little longer to pick this up, but I’m glad I did.

The Opposite of Fate is both a memoir and a collection of essays. Here we get to learn about Tan’s upbringing, and the most significant events in her life, as well as hear her opinions on language and writing. As anyone who has read her fiction can attest, the relationship between mothers and daughters is very important to Tan. This book gives us many glimpses into her complex relationship with her own mother, from childhood to adulthood. A modern reader may be shocked at her mother’s behavior (for example, upon seeing a dead friend in a coffin, her mother advises a very young and frightened Tan that the same will happen to her if she doesn’t listen to her mother) but Tan writes with enough love that it’s difficult to judge her. The essays also cover a large amount of emotional territory. I couldn’t help but smile while reading about Amy Tan’s Wile E. Coyote-esque attempts to learn skiing. Other essays, such as the ones where she reflects on the death of family members, can be quite sad. The collection is also filled with black and white photographs selected by the author that give the book a very personal touch.

Some of my favorite essays would have to be the ones written about language and writing, especially "Mother Tongue," selected for The Best American Essays 1991, and "Required Reading and Other Dangerous Subjects", which passionately critiques many subjects such as required reading, and multicultural literature. The Opposite of Fate covers a wide amount of material and a wide amount of time, from an essay written by eight year old Amy about her library to discovering she had Lyme disease just a few years ago. I would recommend this book to anyone learning more about the history and opinions of the author Amy Tan. I find that I enjoyed this as much as I would one of her novels.

Rating: Five stars
Length: 398 pages
Source: Shelf
TBR Pile: 144 books
Similar Books: On Writing by Stephen King. For people that enjoy the essays about her family’s history, I would recommend other books by Amy Tan: specifically The Kitchen God’s Wife and The Bonesetter’s Daughter.
Other books I've read by this author: The Joy Luck Club, The Kitchen God’s Wife, The Hundred Secret Senses, The Bonesetter’s Daughter, Saving Fish from Drowning

Coming up Next:  Just finished the audiobook of Storm Glass by Maria Snyder. Review should be up this weekend

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