Where the Past Begins: A Writer’s Memoir by Amy Tan

Where the Past Begins: A Writer’s Memoir by Amy Tan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This has the word memoir in the title, but I wouldn’t describe it as a memoir because there is no over-arching narrative that ties the chapters together. However, that didn’t make it less interesting to me.

In this book, Amy Tan has an odd mix of analytical and whimsy in her writing. She snatches a lot of physical details out of the air and presents them as something that supports a point that is never quite clear to me. It is like wandering around in a magnificent hedge maze, where I’m completely lost, but totally enthralled.

She has a dramatic and mysterious family history. Her family history alone could be a book or movie, so there is no surprise that she has drawn so much from it to inspire her fiction. However, unlike her fiction, it doesn’t come together in the end.

There is one part in it where she talks about the experience of having a visceral reaction before she’s consciously aware of her emotional reaction. There is a lag time between her body and her mind. She’s not sure if anyone else experiences a similar lag time, but I think I do as well. Maybe I just empathize with her description of her experience.

I listened to this on audiobook and I recommend this format. Amy Tan reads it herself and she does not hide her feelings about what she is reading.

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