Let the Tornado Come

A Memoir

Let the Tornado Come

Hailed as a “clear-eyed book written with poetry and compassion” by The Boston Globe, Let the Tornado Come is the “lyrical debut memoir” (Kirkus Reviews) of a runaway child, the woman she became, and the horse that set her free.

When Rita Zoey Chin was eleven years old, she began running away from home. Her parents’ violence and neglect drove her onto the streets in search of a better life, but what she found instead was a dangerous world of drugs and predatory men—as well as the occasional kindness of strangers. As she hits bottom and then learns to forge a new life for herself, all of her dreams of freedom and beauty pivot on a single, precious memory: a herd of horses running along a roadside fence.

A few years later, Rita—now a prizewinning poet and wife of a successful neurosurgeon—appears to have triumphed over her harrowing childhood, until she is struck with a series of debilitating panic attacks that threaten her comfortable new life. Ultimately, it is the memory of those hoofbeats, and the chance arrival of a spirited, endearing horse named Claret who has a difficult history himself, that will finally save her.

“A near euphoric ode to the human spirit” (Huffington Post), Let the Tornado Come is about pulling yourself up out of the dark and discovering that the greatest escape lies not in running from, but turning towards, those things that frighten you the most; it is “luminous…A haunting yet hopeful saga that shows how trauma and fear can transform themselves into enduring strength” (Publishers Weekly).
  • Simon & Schuster | 
  • 336 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781476734873 | 
  • August 2015
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Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Let the Tornado Come includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Rita Zoey Chin. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


When Rita Zoey Chin starts having panic attacks after moving with her husband to a bucolic Massachusetts town, she wonders: why now? After an abusive childhood and life as a teenage runaway, she has finally found stability and the love of a faithful and kind man. But the trauma of Rita’s past—a past that her husband, Larry, does not want to hear about—refuses to lie dormant. And at a time when it seems her life couldn’t be more peaceful, she is besieged by sudden terror: a racing pulse, shortness of breath, tunnel vision, and fear that her heart will explode. As her panic attacks increase in severity and frequency, Rita tries everything from cognitive behavioral therapy to cooking and pottery classes to an Oprah-approved healer to various psychiatrists and therapists. But it is not until she meets a horse named Claret—damaged and skittish in his own way—that she can finally heal. Let the Tornado Come is a triumphant story about love, about the transfor see more

About the Author

Rita Zoey Chin
Photograph © Sharona Jacobs

Rita Zoey Chin

Rita Zoey Chin’s writing has appeared in Tin House, Guernica,The Rumpus, Freerange Nonfiction, and elsewhere. She received her MFA from the University of Maryland and now lives in Boston, where she teaches at Grub Street, mentors teenage girls, and rides her mischievous horse.