When Nicki Chen’s first novel, “Tiger Tail Soup,” appeared at Edmonds Bookshop earlier this summer, her Elm Place neighbors were among the first to purchase copies. And, when Chen needed a place to hold a book launch party Monday evening, her neighbors, John and Sheila Valentine, opened their home to the Edmonds community.
The champagne flowed, laughter filled their home, and the Valentine’s welcomed neighborhood friends to hear Chen read selected passages from her novel as Edmonds Bookshop owner Mary Kay Sneeringer made the book available to the celebratory crowd. But besides the attendance of Edmonds’ favorite bookseller there was Jan Bush, Elm Place neighbor and the evening’s “wine steward” serving Washington State wines and light, sparkling bubbly. Sue Cromarty, the author’s sister, was the official photographer and “Perrinville Ladies Writing Club” members Paddy Eger, Maureen Rogers, and Sandra Walker [a past member] were in attendance to applaud the author’s achievement.
It was clear that Chen’s friends and neighbors like to celebrate . . . as much as they like to read.
“Tiger Tail Soup” tells the story of a Chinese woman struggling to survive and protect her family during the Japanese invasion of 1938 and the continuing war that later merged into World War II. Chen’s late husband was born in the midst of that war, and the stories he told of his childhood, during their 31-year marriage, inspired her to write Tiger Tail Soup.
The author read several passages including one from page 53 of her novel, “”I heard them leaving, or thought I did–though I may have dreamt it, expecting our army would have to withdraw. Maybe what I heard was those left behind–the low hollow sounds of them wailing, as though enormous holes had been blasted through their chests, leaving them surprised at the emptiness and wondering why it didn’t hurt, why all they could feel was a breathless gasp where their hearts and lungs should have been.”
After her reading the author was asked how the title of the book was derived, Chen explained that as occupying soldiers shot the Amoy Tigers, taking the prime vital organs to feed the soldiers, all that was left for purchase by the Chinese people were portions of the tiger’s tail – thus “Tiger Tail Soup” became a survival dish for mainland China’s survivors.
Asked by her neighbors how long it took to pen “Tiger Tail Soup” the author indicated that the novel was written over a ten-year period. That question was followed by the query all authors must answer, how soon would her next novel be available. In response, Chen revealed, “The next one won’t take as long!”
The convivial group laughed as hostess, Sheila Valentine, quipped, “Will I have time to recover the upholstery for the next party?”
Tiger Tail Soup is available at the Edmonds Bookshop, 111 5th Ave. S.
For updates, visit Nicki Chen’s blog at www.nickichenwrites.com.
— By Emily Hill