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The Afterlife of Emerson Tang Hardcover – March 12, 2013


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 1 edition (March 12, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0547792786
  • ISBN-13: 978-0547792781
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.8 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,835,174 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

A vintage 1954 Beacon car is the axis around which four characters revolve, trying to accept and resolve each of their sorrows in Champa’s vividly detailed debut. Dying at 33, Emerson Tang Webster is the wealthy son of an established old-money family. His possession of the prized Beacon is first a point of pride, then consternation as events reveal that its safekeeping in a garage has been breached. His personal assistant and archivist, watchful narrator Beth Corvid, attempts to parse everyone’s lives into manageable pieces as she weaves the tale of mystery and connection. Along the way, Beth makes surprising discoveries while also slowly revealing her own secrets. French painter Hélène Moreau wants the car at any cost. Her near-manic desperation is balanced by a sometimes-unexpected clarity. Then there is Miguel Beacon, grandson of the man who started the now-defunct Beacon car empire. His story may be the most complex of all in this intellectual yet deeply human examination of what it means to live as well as to die. --Julie Trevelyan

Review

"Moving, psychologically complex and passionately written....Champa delves into individual souls and emotions in her riveting, layered tale that holds its surprises right up until the end." - The Providence Joournal

"In these pages, Paula Champa conceives the ideal automobile: a total fusion of power and beauty. Her stunning first novel likewise brings those qualities into perfect balance. The raw emotion of her story and the restrained elegance of her writing together make for a literary tour de force."
—Jonathon Keats, author of The Book of the Unknown

"A vintage 1954 Beacon car is the axis around which four characters revolve, trying to accept and resolve each of their sorrows in Champa’s vividly detailed debut...[an] intellectual yet deeply human examination of what it means to live as well as to die."--Booklist

"Compelling."--Publishers Weekly

"Ms. Champa’s story is uimately about time, memory and change, hope and regret. It is wrapped around an old-fashioned mystery. It is also about what a car can mean emotionally to its owner and driver." - New York Times Wheels Blog

"Constructed like a mind-bending puzzle. Only at the end are the characters' true relationships to one another and to the coveted Beacon revealed.... Beth Corvid's quest to restore a classic racing car before her employer's death is both a cleverly written, complex mystery and a meditation on mortality."  Shelf Awareness

"This novel brings together a love of vintage cars with more profound thoughts on life and death... [O]nce it takes hold the book will keep you captivated until the surprising ending... If you enjoy a thoughtful and challenging story with a few "aah-ha" moments when suddenly the author’s true intent shines forth, this will be a very satisfying read." — TheCalifornian.com 

“The story, at its heart, is a lush character study that examines universal themes of life, death, grief, and change through an automotive lens….a real page-turner.” — Driveshaft

“[T]he book’s insights about art and design are stunning at times. Champa suggests that if design inhabits our lives at all, then we have a responsibility to become custodians to our own potential for encountering beauty.” — Style Weekly


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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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See all 23 customer reviews
This would make a really good movie if the characters in the book were kept true to the screen.
Charlemagne
This book was beautifully written, has intricate and interesting story lines, well-developed characters, and overall is very good.
Dave Astle
This book was one of the more fascinating ones I've had the pleasure of reading in a long while.
SevereWX

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By River City Reading on March 12, 2013
Format: Hardcover
This book, it's a good one. It's good in that strange way where you're not sure about it until you look back at the incredible passages you've highlighted and think about the people you want to recommend it to. It's also one of those rare cases where I think the blurb can do a better job of describing the premise of without spoiling than I can.

While this is a novel that revolves around a car, it is not a novel about a car. Instead, it is a search for answers and purpose while facing loss. The details of the story are a bit ambitious, particularly for how lovely Champa's writing is. Unfortunately, I think some readers may have a hard time following the trajectories of the characters and could give up before they get to all of the novel's gorgeous lines.

I started drawing parallels between this and a recent read that had me struggling with tears. The Afterlife of Emerson Tang has such beautiful subtlety. I don't need to be destroyed with tears to feel the emotion of the characters, but I do want really gorgeous writing that I can look back on and appreciate. Paula Champa definitely delivers.

(I received a free advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.)
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Geoffrey Precourt on March 12, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I've just finished spending some magical time with Emerson Tang. It was a magical trip, stepping in and out of the 20th Century at a variety of points--a rich historical narrative told by a cadre of four who share a passion for a magnificent automobile. As the prospects of the car becoming whole again take shape, so do the characters grown. It's a mystery. It's a chase story. It's a great deal of history. But, to this eye, it's a reader's book, where every single word counts.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Having some familiarity with the writings of automotive journalist Paula Champa, it didn't take much for this reader to jump on this title. And up front, it's good to see that as a good novelist, she lives up to what her fans would expect.

The Afterlife of Emerson Tang is a fascinating story for automotive buffs and mystery fans alike. But it's far more than just a car book; it's a well-crafted fictional account about hope, grief, and much more.

This tale is narrated by Beth Corvid, the nurse, companion and archivist to the mysterious and wealthy Emerson Tang, a connoisseur in the final stages of terminal illness. While preparing Tang's estate for his passing, Beth is approached by the celebrated avant-garde artist Helene Moreau, who wants to reunite the body of a classic 1954 Beacon automobile with its original engine, which she believes to be in Tang's possession. But we find that her quest is of particular interest and affinity to Tang, who may seek to prevent Moreau's obsession from its fulfillment.

Author Champa likens the engine's separation from its body to an incorporeal soul. As her characters narrate the past glories of the shuttered Beacon Motor Company, now on the verge of the launch of its first electric vehicle, the author is perhaps offering an admonishment: unless we are to become obsolete we need to focus on remaking the future, and relinquishing those worn-out models of the past.

The fictional car in this novel is called the Beacon, and it recalls several famed brands from the past.
Read more ›
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By N. Robinson on July 24, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The plot of this novel was surprising compelling for me: an effort to fulfill a young terminally ill man's dying wish to reunite a rare car with its original engine. Those involved with the car in various ways are revealed as complex characters who deal in their own ways with death, dying, and loss. Beautiful prose and an original, well-crafted novel.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Ashley Mott VINE VOICE on May 18, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The plot of this book is well-described in the product page descriptions, but that summary doesn't come close to imparting the beauty of many passages in this book. You can get a slight sample of this by browsing the first chapter with the "look inside" feature. I found that first paragraph - the first page of actual copy - to be beautiful, and there are so many more instances of incredible prose within its pages.

Within that writing, there is also a compelling story equating the journey toward reuniting a car and engine with the internal struggles of the book's characters and the passage through death and toward it - both real death and creative death.

This book was thoroughly enjoyed for both its narrative and the quality of individual portions separate from the story.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Lynn Ellingwood VINE VOICE on May 9, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Four people in 1953 decide to compete for ownership of a classic car called the Beacon. A young wealthy owner, Emerson Tang is dying and would like to leave everything to his devoted friend Beth but others want to buy it. They discover that the engine has somehow been replaced and race to get a new one to restore the car. The fight to restore the car brings Emerson and Beth together, and the reader finds out a bit more about what the car means to them and others. The author who is also a car magazine editor allows the reader to look inside to some very unique car lovers and insight into their lives.
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