cover image Where the Past Begins

Where the Past Begins

Amy Tan. Ecco, $28.99 (400p) ISBN 978-0-06-231929-6

In this wise and profound memoir, novelist Tan (The Joy Luck Club, etc.), now 65, looks back on her life, illuminating the path that led her to writing. Tan’s fans and writers of all kinds will find her latest work fascinating; she explores how her writing has evolved, and how memory sparks imagination. She also reveals how listening to classical music helps her create scenes during the writing process. Writers will find a chapter of emails between Tan and her editor Dan Halpern to be clever and endearing, illustrating how an exceptional editor helps shape a book and shore up a writer’s self-esteem. Tan also reveals that it takes her years to write a novel, with each more difficult than the last. Woven throughout are tales from the writer’s sometimes traumatic past. Her mother, once married to an abusive Chinese pilot, left her husband and three daughters in China, married Tan’s father, had three more children, and occasionally threatened suicide. When Tan was 15, her father, an electrical engineer and part-time evangelical minister, died of a brain tumor—as did her older brother six months later. Despite hardships and sacrifices, the Tan family held fast to one another, and the “resilience” of love is apparent in these pages. The memoir reveals that, for Tan, the past is ever present, serving as a wellspring of emotion and writing inspiration. (Oct.)