- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
Amy Tan's latest effort unfolds a series of family secrets that questions the connection between fate, beliefs, and hopes, memory and imagination, and the natural gifts of our hundred secret senses. Years after her Chinese half-sister assails her with ghost stories set in the mysterious world of Yin, a young woman finds herself in China, looking for a way to reconcile the ghosts of her past with the dreams of her future.
Posted February 27, 2012
While Amy Tan is an amazingly talented writer with a lot of great books under her belt, she is arguably most well known as the author of The Joy Luck Club, which I have yet to read. I did, however, read The Hundred Secret Senses (originally published in 1996) not once but twice. I almost never do that because the second reading just feels boring. However, that wasn't the case with this book because it was so enjoyable and rich that rereading felt more like visiting old friends than rehashing something I already knew.
While on the subject of this novel's freshness, it bears mention that some reviewers suggested The Hundred Secret Senses was little more than a rehash of previous, very similar, plots from her earlier books. Obviously, I can't speak for The Joy Luck Club but I did read The Kitchen God's Wife which had a similar theme but in my view an entirely different plot. I also happened to think this novel was the markedly better of the two.
Olivia's mother is American, her father Chinese. She comes from a "traditional American family." At least for the most part. At the age of eighteen, Kwan entered the lives of Olivia (then four) and her family from her native China. Nothing about Kwan is American from her accent to her belief that she has yin eyes to see "those who have died and now dwell in the World of Yin, ghosts who leave the mists just to visit her kitchen on Balboa Street in San Francisco."
These ghosts are not only a fundamental part of the story but one of the main reasons Olivia can never truly get along with her older sister.
For a while, it seems like Olivia will be able to ignore Kwan's eccentricities and lead her own, American, life. But the more Olivia hears, the more Kwan's old ghosts stories intrigue her. Their enticement grows when Olivia unexpectedly finds herself traveling to China with her husband, Simon, and Kwan for a magazine assignment. As the three navigate Kwan's childhood stomping grounds, surprising connections are made between the threesome and, amazingly, with one of Kwan's ghost stories.
The novel chronicles Olivia's relationship with Kwan as well as her early courtship and eventual estrangement from Simon. At the same time, in alternating chapters, The Hundred Secret Senses tells the story of one of Kwan's past lives in China during the 1800s--a dramatic love story closely tied to Kwan's (and Olivia's) present lives.
Tan's prose here is conversational and enticing, feeling like a friend telling a particularly juicy story at dinner or over the phone. The connections between past, present and the very distant past is seamless creating a tight narrative that, by the end of the book, weaves all aspects of the story together in a neat package.
At the same time, The Hundred Secret Senses offers an interesting commentary on assimilation and multi-cultuarism with both Olivia and Simon being half-white and half-Chinese. Although Olivia might be too old to say she comes of age in this novel, it would be fair to say she learns to accept her own identity by the novel's completion.
While all of that makes for a dynamo on its own, my favorite aspect of this book is the way in which it deals with family relations both romantically (with Olivia and Simon) and otherwise (with Olivia and Kwan). The story ends with an optimism that suggests, if you are willing to see them, loved ones are never very far away.
5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 1, 2013
American Chinese Olivia Laguni finds out she has an older Chinese half sister, Kwan Li, after her father’s death bed confession to her mother. From initially being excited about the prospect of having a sister the six year olds excitement soon evaporates and turns into embarrassment and resentment of her mangled English speaking sister. This embarrassment is compounded by Kwan’s belief that she can see and talk to dead people in the World of Yin. Interwoven with Olivia’s story of her life in San Francisco are the stories told by Kwan of her former life in China.
The sisters are the narrators, with Olivia being the primary one. The main body of the novel has Olivia relating her life in San Francisco between the 1960s and the 1990s. As Olivia grows up she continues to be embarrassed by her half sister Kwan who is twelve years older than Olivia. Kwan’s broken English and her lack of knowledge of American ways creates a climate of bullying and teasing for Olivia as other children perceive Kwan to be a ‘retard’. This childhood trauma and subsequent dislike and resentment of Kwan bleeds through to Olivia’s adulthood and is exacerbated by Kwan’s interference in Olivia’s relationship with her partner Simon.
Kwan, however, unreservedly loves her little sister even when it transpires that because of Olivia, Kwan is sent to a mental hospital due to her belief that she can see dead people.
During Olivia’s childhood Kwan tells her ‘ghost stories’. Stories of the dead people she sees. These stories continue into adulthood and in addition Kwan recounts stories of her past lives.
Convolutedly, Kwan, Olivia and Simon visit China and in particular where Kwan grew up.
The author of bestseller The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan, has crafted an ornate, chiaroscuro like piece of work with The Hundred Secret Senses. The novel is about America and China, life and death, cultural incongruities and the difficulty of filial devotion to one’s siblings.
However, fundamentally the novel is about relationships; the relationship between married couples, siblings, parents and their children and the most difficult relationship we all face, between the living and the dead. Amy Tan handles all these issues with adroit aplomb.
2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 4, 2007
Since The Joy Luck Club is Amy Tan's most popular work, when I disliked it I figured I wouldn't enjoy this either. However, it was recommended to me by a friend who also disliked The Joy Luck Club. I enjoyed this book so much I'm surpirsed it's by the same author(as are some others, apparently).
1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 12, 2014
Never wanted this book to end! I read books the way an addict does their drug of choice....i can never get enough! So when i tell you that this book was excellent you must realize that i read enough to know what's good! I learned so much about people, life, choices, and myself!!! Could'nt put it down and feel like i have become a better person from reading it! Also....i never take the time to leave a review after even books i have loved! So what does that tell you!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 1, 2014
Two deverse cultures plus a paranormal bunch of ghosts is a tangled web that doesnt work frankly less ghosts sightings seen and not heard when this was written before or after she was able to write againWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 27, 2013
This is the first of Amy Tan novels that I read because I am under the impression that it is the first one and I want to read them in order. I absolutely love the strong China culture woven into this novel and I love the story. Not predictable & excellent writing style. I wrote something to this about the second one of her novels that I read: that I am a non fiction reader because there is so very much to learn about everything in our world..but I gave Amy Tan a try and there is so very much of the China culture in here that I consider it almost fact..not fiction.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 18, 2013
Posted September 6, 2013
Posted July 5, 2012
Posted July 3, 2012
Posted September 17, 2011
Really enjoyed this book. At some points I was so frustrated by Libby-yas analysis and logic to things, especially her big fights with Simon, but they at the same time felt real. Some people deal with situations like this. In all, the ending was sad but a beautiful ending. I wish i had a Kwan figure in my life.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 19, 2010
This book was a little slow and confusing at the beginning. But once you get to know the two main characters: Kwan and Olivia. They are half sisters, who get to know eachother after Kwan is brought to America from China. Two different women, however they share a special bond. This is a great book for book clubs or something to read on a rainy day. Kwan speaks with a thick accent, so it is a little hard to follow at times. However, Tan describes the characters very vividly and you will get a perfect picture of the two women.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 24, 2008
I had so much fun reading this book. It was the first Amy Tan novel I have read. I loved Kwan's character so bubbly and always trying to please and help Libby-ah who was always searching for something more and going about it in a negative way. I also enjoyed Amy Tan's sense of humor. Every so often I would find myself laughing out loud. The ending was sad though Kwan disappearing. It was a great read!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 5, 2007
Like the most of Amy Tan¿s books, The Hundred Secret Senses evolves around two distinctive characters, one being a Chinese-American who does not understand the Chinese culture and custom and the other being a Chinese from China with great pride in being a Chinese. Through out the book, Tan illustrates how these two characters influence each other and how these characters bring alterations in each other¿s belief and personality. In the beginning the book seems lame because one of the main characters claims that she can see and talk to ghosts. The meaning behind this claim is revealed later in the novel as the readers discover the author¿s message of the novel. The book is long, but it¿s easy to read. However if I had free time to read this book again, I will definitely not read it because they only books that I can read over and over is the Harry Potter series, and The Hundred Secret Senses is not amusing as the Harry Potter series. If you liked The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan, you will be able to enjoy this book, but I personally like The Joy Luck Club better because it has various stories about different characters that are told from different perspectives. If you are reading this book for Mrs. Kadletz class, just note that the devices for the journal are easy to find, but they are not easy to analyze. You have to think and think in order to analyze them in A.P. level analysis.
0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 13, 2006
Unfortuantely, I did not enjoy this book. After 50+ pages, I gave up and stopped reading. The book started out well, with explaining how her 'yin eyed' sister became part of her family. The childhood stuff was nice to read. However, switching between the present and all those boring dream sequences, left me confused and frustrated.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 17, 2005
I am a faithful reader of Amy Tan and I must say that this is her best work to date! Once you pick it up you can't seem to put it down as you are pulled into the story more and more. This is an excellent read and won't disappoint!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 15, 2005
Amy Tan's 'The Hundred Secret Senses' is amazing in its ability to convey the distress between this mother and daughter relationship. It shoes the progression of their bond through life, its faults and its triumphs. Overall, this book is destined to be a classic.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 2, 2005
This book carefully delves into the world of ghosts. In her former life, Kwan was Nunumu, a girl who lost her eye and now only has one. She went to church. She once knew a Yiban Johnson,a half Engish and half Chinese man who is the interpreter for a conquerer named Cape, and Miss Banner. Olivia thinks she is living in the shadow of her husband Simon's former lover who died in an avalanche. Kwan was their matchmaker. She said she saw the former lover in the world of yin. The lover says to forget her--or so Olivia hears Kwan say. Seventeen years later, when they are about to divorce, Fate's tickets take them to China, where Kwan plants herself. This is where Olivia has to decide if her half-sister's stories are true or not and in the process, find if her love with Simon is real. I've just got to say this book was TIGHT!!!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 25, 2005
Overall I loved the story. The chinses accent mades the sory seem even more realistic. Tan's style of writing allows for the reader to have a deeper understnading of the characters, though the ending was somewhat disappointing. What happens to Kwan?Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 1, 2004