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The Opposite of Fate Hardcover – Bargain Price, October 27, 2003

4.5 out of 5 stars 106 customer reviews

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Amy Tan begins The Opposite of Fate: A Book of Musings, a collection of essays that spans her literary career, on a humorous note; she is troubled that her life and novels have become the subject of a "Cliff’s Notes" abridgement. Reading the little yellow booklet, she discovers that her work is seen as complex and rich with symbolism. However, Tan assures her readers that she has no lofty, literary intentions in writing her novels--she writes for herself, and insists that the recurring patterns and themes that critics find in them are entirely their own making. This self-deprecating stance, coupled with Tan’s own clarification of her intentions, makes The Opposite of Fate feel like an extended, private conversation with the author.

Tan manages to find grace and frequent comedy in her sometimes painful life, and she takes great pleasure in being a celebrity. "Midlife Confidential" brings readers on tour with Tan and the rest of the leather-clad writers’ rock band, the Rock-Bottom Remainders. And "Angst and the Second Book" is a brutally honest, frequently hysterical reflection on Tan’s self-conscious attempts to follow the success of The Joy Luck Club.

In a collection so diverse and spanning such a long period of time, inevitably some of the pieces feel dated or repetitious. Yet, Tan comes off as a remarkably humble and sane woman, and the book works well both to fill in her biography and to clarify the boundaries between her life and her fiction. In her final, title essay, Tan juxtaposes her personal struggles against a persistent disease with the nation’s struggles against terrorism in the aftermath of 9/11. She declares her transformative, artistic power over tragedy, reflecting: "As a storyteller, I know that if I don’t like the ending, I can write a better one." --Patrick O’Kelley --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

In her first collection of essays, Tan explains that she writes stories to understand "how things happen." These musings, as wide-ranging as a graduation speech at Simmons College and a childhood contest entry, offer insight into how her family history has shaped the questions she chooses to ask. Tan herself reads the essays, which suits the intimate, self-congratulatory tone of the collection. Several of the pieces focus on Tan's tragedies-her father and brother died from brain tumors, her mother suffered violent bouts of depression and her best friend was murdered-but her successes also receive a fair amount of space. One can almost hear the pride in Tan's voice as she talks of her associations with other famous writers, how her name has been used as a question on Jeopardy and how The Joy Luck Club appears alongside "Bill" (Shakespeare) and "Jim" (Conrad) in Cliff's Notes, a fact that Tan uses to launch into a tirade about current perceptions of multicultural and Asian-American literature. The essays work best when Tan is telling a story, as when she relays her battle with Lyme disease or describes her mother's final days. Still, there's no denying that Tan has every right to be proud, having led a peripatetic and extraordinary life.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Audio Cassette edition.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons; First Printing edition (October 27, 2003)
  • ISBN-10: 0786541407
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786541409
  • ASIN: B0009YAR96
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.6 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (106 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,313,068 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I was privileged to receive an advance reader's copy of this latest book by Amy Tan. In her novels, Tan uses material culled from her own life and her family's history. But I believe this is her first nonfiction book, and in it she displays the same qualities for which her fiction is so appreciated: humor, poignancy, revelation, a little magic - and always fascination with the world and our relationships within it. In The Opposite of Fate, she reveals herself. Especially moving is a part in which she realizes she only learned who her mother really was as she was writing her obituary. A collection of "musings," more than a chronological memoir, The Opposite of fate is intimate, literary, and wonderful.
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Format: Hardcover
"The Opposite of Fate" is a collection of musings that cover the many facets of Amy Tan's life, career, and philosophies. The book runs the gamut from a library contest entry written when she was eight to articles and lectures about her current life as a writer. These essays are quite personal, honest, and told with humor and amazing insight.
Tan reminisces on her childhood and the clash of Chinese fate and Christian faith in her upbringing. She provides many details about her family, especially her relationship with her mother. She also talks about the loss of both her father and brother to brain cancer the same year, as well as the deaths of several close friends. She describes her harrowing experience with Lyme's disease. She talks with amusement about doctoral dissertations and Cliff's Notes that analyze her work. She discusses what it means to be classified as an Asian-American writer, and how it feels to be a literary celebrity. She recounts her experiences in the literary rock band "The Rock Bottom Remainders."
I listened to the audio version of this book, which was read by Amy Tan herself. Since this collection let me peek into the author's triumphs, tragedies, hopes, and fears, it was very effective to hear the essays read in her own voice. After reading this book, you will better understand the elements that make up the author's stories, such as the echoes of her mother's influence in the novels' mother-daughter relationships. I recommend this book for every Amy Tan fan. It may provide enough insight on the real Amy Tan so that you'll want to reread some of her novels.
Eileen Rieback
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Format: Paperback
Although I read only the occasional novel, I really love it when a novelist tries her hand at non-fiction. Fiction writers turn everything into stories. The essays and memories in The Opposite of Fate read like short stories, with the pacing and structure of fiction.

This is not a memoir, rather a collection of thoughts, essays, interviews, memories, even a prize-winning essay Amy Tan wrote when she was eight years old. The pieces at the beginning of the book are more light-hearted than the later ones. In one, Tan is surprised to find that Joy Luck Club has a CliffNotes version and is interested to discover what she was trying to say in her novel. Not only that, the CliffNotes biography doesn't quite match what she recalls from her own life. In another chapter, Tan tells how she became a bad singer in the Rock Bottom Remainders, a bad band. Her story of how Joy Luck Club was made into a movie is fascinating.

There is a lot about Tan's mother, a huge influence in her life, both good and bad. When Tan turns serious, watch out. She has had several brushes with death, and her September 11 memories are out of the ordinary, as well. She also writes about how she came to be a writer and have her first novel published at thirty-seven.

Most of these pieces are quickly read, and only one or two seem seemed too long. I am embarrassed to say that I have not read the novels of Amy Tan, but having finished this very enjoyable "Book of Musings," I look forward to getting her other books right away.
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Format: Paperback
When I read my first Amy Tan book, "The Hundred Secret Senses", I came to feel a strong connection with the author, although I am not usually attracted to the bizarre and the supernatural. That connection grew even stronger with each subsequent book by her that I read. "The Opposite of Fate" was a delight to read, it felt like a friend was telling me about her life and our friendhship was growing deeper and deeper with every chapter. From that book, I learned how pain and love have shaped a fascinating life and an extraordinary person. Even if you are not an Amy Tan fan, you could relate to her experiences and appreciate the truth behind the facts of her life, as revealed in "The Opposite of Fate".

She knows the power of hope, and she shares that knowledge with the reader in a compelling way. I think that love is the ultimate force behind everything she writes about, both in this autobiographical book and in her fiction. It is love that lends a strong sense of reality even to the strangest situations and images in her fiction, making them sound true, important, and exciting. In "The Opposite of Fate", love comes through in many of her musings and descriptions.
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Format: Paperback
The first Amy Tan book I read was THE KITCHEN GOD'S WIFE, and it blew me away. It did what a really fine literary novel ought to do, in my opinion: it spoke the truth about human beings. While I enjoyed Tan's use of her own Chinese American background to give the book its setting, and her sharing of her heritage with its characters, I took those things as judicious use of the oldest and best advice given to fiction writers: "Write what you know." I was surprised, therefore, to read in this memoir about Tan's amazement when she began hearing herself declared a "minority" writer. A "writer of color," and so on. With each of those labels came a heavy load of expectations, of responsibilities (as perceived by those applying the label) to which she must rise. What didn't surprise me one bit, though, was the resentment that followed Tan's initial consternation. Labels that seem perfectly logical, and therefore helpful, to someone else can be limiting and hurtful to the person slapped with them. To put it another way, being pigeonholed pinches. And attempting to live up to the expectations of readers, reviewers, etc. as one writes a second novel after producing a wildly successful first book has got to be the most creativity-stifling exercise in this world.

I remember something else about THE KITCHEN GOD'S WIFE. I'd never heard of Amy Tan when I happened to pick it up, scan it, and decide to take it home. I sought out THE JOY LUCK CLUB, therefore, only after getting to know Tan's writing from her second book; and although I enjoyed her first, I thought (and still think) that her second novel is better by far. What I loved about both books was the universality of their themes, and of the characters I met in their pages.
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