This collection of nonfiction writings by fiction author Amy Tan includes multiple genres: essay, email, responses to journalist's questions, eulogy, love poem, university presentations, travel journal entries, and a commencement speech. Hence Tan terms the work "musings." Consonant with the multiple genres are multiple topics, ranging from memoirs of childhood and young adulthood, writing tips, fun portraying a dominatrix in a writers' rock-n-roll band, work on the film version of The Joy Luck Club, and past and present tragedies and struggles.

Much of the book, however, centers on medically-related themes. Prominent themes are: her diagnosis of neuroborreliosis--a form of late-stage Lyme disease--detailed in the final essay entitled "The Opposite of Fate"; her traumas such as the torture and murder of her best friend; the death of her father and brother from brain tumors; a car and a skiing accident; the cancer death of her editor and, woven throughout, the complicated psyche of her mother, Daisy Tan.

Daisy's extreme emotions ruled the family, and her behaviors, such as threatening not only suicide but also murder (she held a knife to Amy's throat), caused profound responses in her daughter. Probably one of the most adaptive responses was Amy Tan's use of their complex relationship in developing the nuanced mother-daughter relationships that characterize her fiction. Daisy's decline and death from Alzheimer's disease are also detailed here.


To say that Amy Tan has had an eventful life would be a severe understatement. One could almost randomly open the book and find some incident that has deeply affected her psychologically, if not physically. Of particular note, aside from the multiple references to her mother's forceful personality and influence, is the section on her difficulty in getting proper diagnosis and treatment for the bizarre concatenation of symptoms that are ultimately proven to be caused by Lyme disease. This difficulty is unfortunately not unusual, and the essay is a useful addition to the literature on Lyme disease and the importance of persisting until one is under treatment by a true expert.


G. P. Putnam's Sons

Place Published

New York



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