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Amy’s #NASCAR Reading List: The Afterlife of Emerson Tang by Paula Champa

Posted by Amy in General | NASCAR

I have been holding back on the review for The Afterlife of Emerson Tang by Paula Champa so that I could purposely publish it this week.  Why? Because it’s Car Week here on the Monterey Peninsula which culminates with our world famous Concours d’Elegance and part of this book actually takes place at Concours. So it’s kind of a local car thing  that is kind of relevant to me and relevant to the blog because it’s about the love of a car- (but that is FAR too simple of a way to describe this book- which I will get to in a minute). This book is NOT NASCAR related- nor is it really even race related- but it is about the love of a very special car and has local tie ins so I had to review it for you.

For those not in the know let me first explain that Concours d’Elegance is an auto show- but not just your average auto show.  Let’s just say I have never actually gone to the event because…well the tickets are a bit out of my price range for a car show ($225 in advance, $275 day of event).  Why so much? Well the “marques” ticket cars this year are: Lincoln Custom Coachwork, Vanvooren Coachwork, Simplex, Aston Martin Centennial, Lamborghini, Porsche 911, BMW 507, French Motorcycles. In other words? High high dollar vehicles.  As a matter of fact a couple years ago a Mercedes at one of the related car auctions in the are brought an INSANE amount of money in- I think it might have even been a record. These are not my kind classic cars (I know I have mentioned my love of the 55 nomad and the 63 split window vette among others) these are the classic cars of the upper echelon. I can still appreciate their beauty though- and I will if I have time often go over to Monterey and wander around the car auctions just to look at the cars.  A couple of years ago I actually saw my first REO Speedwagon…fell in love with it.

Anyway these cars are parked onto THE elusive Pebble Beach golf course and scrutinized and judged. That is Concours as I understand it because like I said- I have never actually been to Concours- but only to the related car activities around the area.

So the book The Afterlife of Emerson Tang is not really race related- but it is car related specifically about the love of a car and how that car touched many many lives.  Emerson Tang is an eccentric collector of various art mediums and has kept them hoarded away in his New York apartment. While Emerson Tang is relatively young (in his 30s) he is in failing health and has hired an archivist/caretaker to help him organize his collection and see to his final wishes while caring for him.  His most prized possession is a car- A 1954 Beacon Roadster which has been safely stored away. Or so he thought.

What develops next is a story that spans history as Beth (the archivist/caretaker) strives to help Emerson complete his dying mission- to reunite the Beacon Roadster with it’s original engine. I don’t want to give up too much of the story here but I really found the book to be not quite a love letter to a specific car- but more a car’s love letter to all the different people it has touched through it’s history and how all of their lives have become intertwined because of the car. If you have read any of my book reviews in the past you know that I do not like to give away too much as to the actual plot points- because that is up to the reader to discover- and this is the case with this book as well.

Technically the plot of the book was actually a little slow moving for my taste- especially towards the end. However- it more than makes up for that in the language and flow.  I dare say that the written words in the book are almost as much a piece of art as the cars that will appear on the lawn of Pebble Beach at Concour’s this Sunday. This is not my usual type of book- but I think that if you can appreciate a story about the love of a car and how something like a car can become a piece of your personal history as well as the personal histories of others- this book might be right up your ally.

“The second Beacon was so striking in its position on the fairway that I spotted it from a hundred yards away. The pale blue body was parked at an abrupt angle to the coast, as if the couple who owned it had abandoned it there in a fit of ecstatic passion and run off together into the waves, leaving the car to gaze tranquilly at the Pacific.” – page 192  The Afterlife of Emerson Tang by Paula Champa

About the author: This may be Paula Champa’s first novel, but she is no stranger to the written word. She has contributed to many art and design magazines as well as reported on car culture and the emergence of sustainable transportation as well as written short fiction that has appeared in literary journals.

For the FTC “full disclosure” regulations: A copy of this book was provided to me by a PR company for the purpose of review. The review is my own.

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