In the Garden Behind the Moon
A Memoir of Loss, Myth, and Magic
by Alexandra A. Chan
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Pub Date 28 May 2024 | Archive Date 21 May 2024
Alexandra Chan thinks she has life figured out until, in the Year of the Ram, the death of her father—her last parent—brings her to her knees, an event seemingly foretold in Chinese mythology.
A left-brained archaeologist and successful tiger daughter, Chan finds her logical approach to life utterly fails her in the face of this profound grief. Unable to find a way forward, she must either burn to ash or forge herself anew.
Slowly, painfully, wondrously, Chan discovers that her father and ancestors have left threads of renewal in the artifacts and stories of their lives. Through a long-lost interview conducted by Roosevelt’s Federal Writers’ Project, a basket of war letters written from the Burmese jungle, a box of photographs, her world travels, and a deepening relationship to her own art, the archaeologist and lifelong rationalist makes her greatest discovery to date: the healing power of enchantment.
In an epic story that travels from prerevolution China to the South under Jim Crow, from the Pacific theater of WWII to the black sands of Reynisfjara, Iceland, and beyond, Chan takes us on a universal journey to meaning in the wake of devastating loss, sharing the insights and tools that allowed her to rebuild her life and resurrect her spirit. Part memoir, part lyrical invitation to new ways of seeing and better ways of being in dark times, the book includes beautiful full-color original Chinese brush paintings by the author and fascinating vintage photographs of an unforgettable cast of characters. In the Garden Behind the Moon is a captivating family portrait and an urgent call to awaken to the magic and wonder of daily life.
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“There is a garden behind the moon within all of us. But it is hard to reach. In this magnificent volume, Alexandra Chan lays out a pathway to that garden. It is no easy track she follows to discover and maintain the garden she now nourishes, yet she invites us all to learn to walk it with her, each in our own way with our own families beside us. There are many among us who recognize the greatness of spirit of our families. There are many among us who understand the divinity of human nature and of all life that reaches out across time and space from generation to generation. There are few who have dwelled upon these matters as deeply as Chan has. Many have in fact hidden the doorways that lead to this garden, yet upon reading this book, they will feel a pull at their hearts that will lead them there. It is a journey worth taking. This is an important book and an immense, rich, and magnificent experience."—Jared Smith, author of A Sphere Encased in Fires and Life
“At heart [In the Garden Behind the Moon] is a memoir, whose layers unfold to reveal a visual journal encompassing family history, travelogue, healing journey, and exercises in wonderment. Alexandra’s evocative illustrations and vintage photos enliven the narrative to make for a delightfully immersive experience. . . . In the Garden is an honest and deeply fulfilling story whose images will mesmerize you as its words inspire and nurture you.”—Claire Chao, author of Remembering Shanghai, winner of the Writer’s Digest Grand Prize
"More than just another memoir, this book is good medicine! In this astonishing work, Alexandra Chan has blended a good bit of wisdom about the power of stories, the remarkable history of multiple generations of her family, and strands from Chinese mythology to create a rich and vivid tapestry. Like her grandfather who was named after the Great Phoenix, Chan, too, knows something about being reborn. Reading this tale is like sitting with the author as she says, 'Look, here is one map to going through the fire and ashes and coming out the other side. Let's see how you can do it, too.' Highly recommended for all library collections."—Clint Chamberlain, librarian
“On the other side of grief can be wisdom, deep understanding, and rebirth. I strongly recommend Chan’s memoir to anyone who has lost someone or something they deeply love and is going through the valley of pain and confusion. Chan shows her readers the light, the ‘Chan Magic,’ on the flip side of darkness, telling them there is beauty here, there is love, you are never alone. I recommend this book to therapy clients, therapists, friends, and anyone searching for hope amidst darkness.”—Christine Garcia, Psy.D., CEO of Side by Side
“History and magic blend to create an unforgettable tapestry of interwoven, inter-generational stories of persistence and flourishing . . . a most unforgettable memoir.”—Manhattan Book Review
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Average rating from 9 members
A deep comfort and absolutely inspirational at the same time.
Alexandra Chan takes her own journey through grief and healing and shares it in a way that is both a comfort and and an inspiration
South East Asian culture embraces the lives of our ancestors and they are remembered in all festivals, but Chan takes this a step further, sharing her family history and entwining it with mythology to create a truly magical masterpiece. This will be an absolute great in literary history and rightly so
I gratefully received a free eARC from NetGalley and my review is left voluntarily
(Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an Advanced Copy)
In the Garden Behind the Moon
*”Parents should never die!”*
In the Garden Behind the Moon is a heartfelt & hear breaking memoir about love, grief, and finding the courage to overcome.
This book made me cry, feel joy, laugh, and encouragement working through the grief of losing parents. It made me question how we as parents can prepare our children for our passing? Is that something that is possible so that our children re not left feeling the void of our absence.
My soul screamed with Alexandra as she found her peace and worked through her grief.
A truly beautiful story.
In the Year of the Ram, Alexandra Chan's belief in having life figured out crumbles with the death of her father, her last parent, an event seemingly foretold in Chinese mythology.
An enriching experience for the heart, soul, and mind! Alexandra Chan's remarkable personal book intertwines layers of narrative and meaning, offering every reader a multitude of connections. Through her storytelling, she entertains, inspires, and prompts self-exploration of one's history and inner and outer lives. With her eloquent words, vivid imagery, and skillful illustrative Chinese brush paintings, this book becomes a sensory and emotional feast, inviting you to discover magic in your own life and form more meaningful connections with yourself and the world. A wonderful journey! Gratitude to Netgalley and Flashpoint for this beautifully crafted and illustrated eArc.