Jessica Shaw
November 07, 2003 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Opposite of Fate

Current Status
In Season
Amy Tan

We gave it a B-

You’d better really like Tan if you’re going to read hundreds of pages about her writer’s block, Lyme disease, and book tour. Fortunately, as fans of her novels know, Tan is a compelling storyteller who can make a trip to the CliffsNotes aisle interesting. The best parts of this often self-indulgent collection of essays, diary entries, and speeches concern her eccentric mother, who inspired 1991’s ”The Kitchen God’s Wife.” (Could a writer ask for anything richer than a mother who said, ”Don’t ever let boy kiss you. You do, you can’t stop. Then you have baby. You put baby in garbage can. Police find you, put you in jail, then you life over, better just kill yourself”?) But when Tan searches her own name on the Internet or shares bland observations about a trip to China, you wish fate had led her to write another novel.

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