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The Afterlife of Emerson Tang: A Novel

288 pages5 hours


A mystery surrounding a vintage car lies at the heart of this “moving, psychologically complex” novel of life, death, and history (Providence Journal).
A beloved car becomes a piece of us—a way back into our histories, or forward into our destinies. For Emerson Tang, the only son of a prominent New England family, that car is a 1954 Beacon. A collector—of art and experience—Emerson keeps his prized possession safely stored away. When his health begins to fail, his archivist and caretaker is approached by a secretive French painter determined to buy the Beacon at any cost. But they discover that the Beacon has been compromised—and that its importance reaches far beyond Emerson’s own history.
Soon they run into another who shares their obsession: the heir to the ruined Beacon Motor Company, who is determined to restore his grandfather’s legacy. These four become unlikely adventurers, joined in their aim to reunite the Beacon’s original body and engine, pitted against one another in their quest to claim it. Each new clue takes one closer to triumph, but also takes these characters, each grieving a deep loss, toward finding missing pieces of their own lives.
A fast-paced ride through the twentieth century—to modernism, fascism, and industrialism, to Manhattan, a German zeppelin, a famed concours in Pebble Beach, and a road race in Italy—The Afterlife of Emerson Tang takes us deep into a complicated automotive romance. A novel of strangers connected across time, through a car that is so much more than a car, it asks us what should be preserved, what memories to trust, and whether some of the legacies we hold most dear—including that grand contraption, the automobile—can be made new again.
“Passionately written . . . Champa delves into individual souls and emotions in her riveting, layered tale that holds its surprises right up until the end.” —Providence Journal
“A vintage 1954 Beacon car is the axis around which four characters revolve, trying to accept and resolve each of their sorrows in Champa’s vividly detailed debut . . . [an] intellectual yet deeply human examination of what it means to live as well as to die.” —Booklist

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